UnitedHealth stands by Vytorin

We didn't have to wait long for a Vytorin decision from UnitedHealth Group. The largest U.S. insurer says it's keeping the cholesterol med in the same tier on its drug formulary because the company has found "no safety issues" associated with it.

Earlier this week, a panel of cardiologists and the New England Journal of Medicine both recommended that Vytorin be reserved for patients who've tried other cholestrol-controlling meds and failed. But UnitedHealth says that, because no safety issues were raised, patients should stay on the med. "The last thing we want to do is see patients stopping their medication when they need it."

Yesterday, Cigna said that, in light of the Enhance data, it would stop asking patients to try Vytorin before using the more expensive Lipitor (made by Pfizer) and Crestor (AstraZeneca). It and several other insurance and benefits managers are reviewing their policies on the med. UnitedHealth's vote of confidence could help sway other payers to keep paying, too.

- read the New York Times article
- see the Cigna item at the WSJ Health Blog

ALSO: Generic simvastatin may gain the most from questions surrounding the effectiveness of Vytorin and Zetia. The Enhance study that's caused all the brouhaha showed that Vytorin did no better at preventing atherosclerosis than simvastatin did alone. Analysts say that, as Vytorin and Zetia lose sales, plain statins will capture more business. "A good portion of that will go to generic Zocor," one analyst said. Report

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Congress: M/S-P sat on bad news. Report
ACC panel unleashes Vytorin whirlwind. Report
Companies saw Vytorin threat in 2005. Report
Congress: Were Enhance results secret? Report