LINDA A. JOHNSON
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) ¿ There's no evidence Merck & Co.'s blockbuster cholesterol drug Vytorin causes cancer, federal regulators said Tuesday. They reviewed reams of data after a patient study last year raised suspicions of a link, weakening sales already hurt by questions about the drug's efficacy.
The Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday it reviewed data from that study and two others and found no evidence linking Vytorin to a higher risk of cancer or death from cancer. Still, the agency said it cannot definitively rule that out.
"We're pleased with the conclusions reached by the FDA," said Merck spokesman Ron Rogers.Vytorin, a top moneymaker for Merck, combines two types of brand-name cholesterol pills, Zetia and Zocor, which is available as an inexpensive generic drug. At their peak, Vytorin and Zetia generated more than $5 billion a year in combined sales. But research released in January 2008 indicated Vytorin was no more effective at limiting plaque buildup in arteries than Zocor, which costs about one-third as much. Public release of the unfavorable data had been held up for so long that a congressional committee investigated. In July 2008, preliminary results from a study known by the acronym SEAS indicated a possible increased risk of cancer in patients getting Vytorin.