Schering CEO defends Vytorin decisions

Talk about the hot seat. At a Morgan Stanely pharma conference yesterday, Schering-Plough CEO Fred Hassan (photo) was quizzed and re-quizzed by investors about the Vytorin-Zetia controversy. (In case you missed it, Schering and its partner Merck drew fire last month for allegedly holding back data on the cholesterol fighters, some from studies that indicate Zetia might cause liver problems, plus an entire trial pitting Zetia-plus-Zocor against Zocor alone.)

Hassan pooh-poohed the buzzing about the latter trial, saying that the 720 patients involved had very high cholesterol because of genetics, so that data shouldn't affect the use of Vytorin (which combines Zetia and Zocor) in regular patients. But investors at the meeting weren't satisfied. Pressing Hassan on the science of statins, they asked whether Vytorin--which is very good at lowering cholesterol--also carries all the benefits of other statins such as Lipitor. Hassan had no direct answer.

As for the liver questions, Schering's R&D chief Thomas Koestler acknowledged that some Zetia patients had abnormal results on liver-function tests, but they generally showed no symptoms. Serious problems, he said, "are extremely rare."

- read the article from the Wall Street Journal Health Blog

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