Merck, Schering delay earnings

Merck and Schering-Plough are delaying their earnings reports until after the close of trading today so that researchers can present preliminary results of a new Vytorin study first. The study, known as SEAS for Simvastatin plus Ezetimibe in Aortic Stenosis, examined the cholesterol drug's ability to curb narrowing or obstruction of the valve leading from the heart into the aorta. As you know Vytorin is a combo of Zocor (simvastatin) and Zetia (ezetimibe).

It's a rare problem, but the study also collected some outcomes data that could either boost Vytorin's image or further depress it, depending on the results. And, as the Wall Street Journal notes, the study results are also newsworthy because they're coming ahead of schedule--rather than way behind, like the Enhance data that's given the drugmakers so much grief this year. You'll recall that Enhance showed Vytorin to be no more effective than Zocor alone at reducing plaque buildup in the arteries.

The companies badly need some good Vytorin news: the number of prescriptions for the drug fell from 1.84 million in January to 1.33 million in June.

- check out Merck's release
- see the story from the Associated Press
- read the WSJ Health Blog post