updated 12/22/2009 1:31:36 PM ET 2009-12-22T18:31:36

Federal drug regulators say an extensive data review shows there's no evidence that Merck's cholesterol drug Vytorin causes cancer, a suspicion raised last year by a patient study.

Still, the Food and Drug Administration says it cannot definitively rule out whether Vytorin is linked to a higher risk of cancer or death from cancer.

The FDA says it's examined all of the data from the study that first raised the alarm about a possible risk. It also has reviewed interim data from two very large studies that are still in progress.

Merck & Co. sells Vytorin, which generates roughly $5 billion a year in sales. It combines two types of cholesterol pills, Zetia and Zocor, which is available as an inexpensive generic drug.

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