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Hiding the truth from consumers

   As the actual data from studies on Vytorin and Zetia is finally released, it appears to show that thousands of consumers have been paying for expensive drugs that do them no good in trying to avoid heart attack or stroke.

Despite the fact that drug manufacturers are "required" to disclose the data from their research in a timely manner, the makers of Zetia and Vytorin delayed in releasing clinical data for more than two years.  The study was completed in April of 2006, and the Dutch cardiologist who was the principal investigator threatened to resign during the summer of 2007 when results were not released in a timely fashion.

        In the interim, Merck and Schering-Plough captured 15 percent of the U.S. cholesterol-lowering drug market and sold 5 billion dollars worth of the drugs in 2007, alone.  The results, when they came in, showed that the two drugs were relatively ineffective in reducing the growth of plaque in arteries, and there was even some suggestion of a negative impact on patients.  No wonder the companies hesitated to release the data; and the drug industry knew it had nothing to fear from an industry-oriented Bush Administration. 

     Unless the data from these large studies turns out to be completely misleading, it appears that many US consumers will have been duped into buying an expensive medication that provided them with no health benefit.  Some probably died as a result, and many may have suffered arterial damage that would have been avoidable with use of proven cholesterol-lowering statins--at lower cost.  Canadian authorities do not allow drug marketing, have not made Vytorin available, and restrict usage of these medications in public programs:  they wasted many fewer dollars because only 3 percent of the Canadian market converted to these apparently valueless medications.

    In the meantime, cardiologists and the New England Journal of Medicine are recommending that the four million American patients currently taking these medications return to proven statin drugs such as Lipitor and simvastatin.  While prescriptions for the two drugs are down 15 percent since preliminary data on their effectiveness was released in January, the manufacturers continue to market the drugs and more than 3 million scripts are writtten for them each month in the US.

    There are "outcome" trials of thousands of patients which demonstrate that statin medications are effective in preventing heart attack and stroke.  There are no similar studies proving the effectiveness of these two medications, and none are expected before 2012---assuming the data is released by the manufacturers in a timely fashion then......

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