Add Andrew Cuomo's name to the list of government officials looking into Merck ( MRK) and Schering-Plough's ( SGP) handling of research about their Vytorin cholesterol drug.
The New York attorney general said Saturday he has issued subpoenas to the two drugmakers as part of an investigation into whether they deliberately concealed negative results from a Vytorin trial called ENHANCE, according to published media reports. The results, which the companies made public Jan. 14, suggested Vytorin may be no more effective than Zocor, which is available in a cheap generic version. Shares of both companies have since declined dramatically. A Merck spokesman said the company will cooperate with Cuomo's probe, according to the AP. News of Cuomo's investigation comes just one day after the Food and Drug Administration said it would review the ENHANCE study. Rep. John Dingell (D., Mich.), chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, was already leading a panel investigating how the companies handled the trial data. The ENHANCE study was concluded in April 2006. Critics have alleged Merck and Schering-Plough sat on the unfavorable results so as not to hurt sales of Vytorin. In an attempt to defend themselves, the companies Friday issued a detailed timeline of the ENHANCE study. Vytorin is a combination of two other drugs: Merck's Zocor, which is now available in a generic version; and Schering-Plough's Zetia. Merck shares ended Friday's session down $1.77, or 3.6%, at $47.79. Schering-Plough shares lost $1.15, or 5.70%, to close at $19.02.