Read deep into Merck's first-quarter earnings report and you'll find some Vytorin secrets spilled. First off, the company expects to lose some $700 million in revenues off the blockbuster cholesterol drug, which has been dropping off, scrips-wise, since the big Enhance announcement in January (you remember all that news). This is the first time we've seen a real number applied to the potential sales slide. That figure might help a savvy prognosticator ballpark lost sales at Schering-Plough, which reports its earnings tomorrow; Schering is Merck's partner on Vytorin, a combo of Merck's Zocor statin and Schering's cholesterol-lowering Zetia pill.
Second, New Jersey's attorney general has issued subpoenas to Merck and Schering-Plough, probing the Enhance study, which found that Vytorin did no better at treating artery-clogging than Zocor did alone. The study results, remember, were delayed for some two years while the companies and their researchers wrangled with the data. New Jersey joins a queue of states and feds looking into that delay and the marketing of the expensive drug in the meantime. New York and Connecticut are investigating, as are two Congressional committees.
Meanwhile, another Enhance-related lawsuit has hit the courts--and this one is a civil suit filed under RICO, alleging racketeering-type fraud. Interestingly, this suit uses the e-mailed comments of Dr. James Stein, who hit the news last week when his criticism of some "meeting minutes" was released by one of the Congressional committees investigating the whole affair. The suit also includes letters and statements by Sen. Chuck Grassley, who's leading the charge for that committee.
ALSO: Merck CEO Richard Clark says he's "aggressively looking" for the right biotech deal, but declined to identify any targets. He's said the same before, however, so there's no indication that anything is imminent. Report
Vytorin records created after the fact
Congress: M/S-P sat on bad news
Companies saw Vytorin threat in 2005
Congress: Were Enhance results secret?
Congress promises Vytorin hearings