Benefits fund sues Merck, Schering over Vytorin

We wonder whether Merck and Schering-Plough ever regret taking on that ill-fated Enhance study. The trial--which put the Vytorin combo drug up against one of its components, the off-patent statin Zocor--has left a legacy of trouble since the companies first delayed releasing its results. When Merck and Schering finally deemed the study's key imaging data ready for prime time, the disappointing result was that pricey Vytorin didn't beat Zocor/simvastatin at reducing arterial plaque. And that bad news only heightened questions about why the study was delayed to begin with.

Since then, Merck and Schering have been called on the Congressional carpet for "misleading" advertising (you remember the food-and-family ads). They've watched Vytorin sales deflate like a pricked party balloon. And now, a Pennsylvania benefits fund is suing, claiming that Merck and Schering's advertising and their delay of the Enhance results constitutes "deceptive practice." According to the Pennsylvania Employees Benefit Trust Fund's complaint, the drugmakers pushed the pricey Vytorin and its sister med Zetia, saying they were better than Zocor/simvastatin, even though the Enhance study showed otherwise. Thus did the fund end up paying for expensive cholesterol remedies its members didn't need, the suit claims, and so it's entitled to paybacks. Treble damages, actually.

The companies say they'll fight the lawsuit "vigorously," of course. "We believe the companies acted responsibly and appropriately," Merck spokesman Ron Rogers said. "Vytorin and Zetia have been shown to reduce LDL-cholesterol based on numerous clinical studies," Schering's Lee Davies said in a statement emailed to the news service. 

- read the piece from Courthouse News Service
- check out the Bloomberg story