Congress demands more Vytorin info

Once again, Congress is digging into Vytorin. The House Energy and Commerce Committee--now headed by Rep. Henry Waxman--demanded information from Merck and Schering-Plough on the controversial Enhance study that made so many headlines last year.

Vytorin, a cholesterol remedy sold by a Merck and Schering joint venture, came under scrutiny last year after the long-delayed Enhance results were finally released. That study showed that Vytorin, a combo of the statin Zocor and another anticholesterol med Zetia, was no better at dealing with artery-clogging than Zocor alone. Given the fact that Vytorin is much more expensive than Zocor, and even more costly than the generic form, simvastatin, the study results raised eyebrows.

Since then, Congress and others have been reviewing study data and behind-the-scenes documents, trying to determine whether the joint venture deliberately withheld data it feared would hurt Vytorin sales. This latest demand concerns the "unblinding" of the Vytorin study data. "We are aware of a new letter from the House Energy and Commerce Committee and we plan to cooperate with the Committee's requests for information," a Merck spokesman told Dow Jones.

The committee also wants more information on the ongoing study of Vytorin known as SEAS. Preliminary data was released last year that seemed to show Vytorin boosting the risk of cancer, but an expert analysis dismissed the cancer data as anomalous. Other experts have said it's too soon to rule out Vytorin's possible cancer risks.

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