updated 8/9/2004 2:38:31 PM ET 2004-08-09T18:38:31

The Food and Drug Administration approved a new cholesterol-lowering drug called Vytorin, the drug’s maker announced Friday.

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The pill, manufactured and marketed by a joint venture between Merck & Co. Inc. and Schering-Plough Corp., is a combination of two other cholesterol drugs, Zetia and Zocor.

Vytorin has been shown in studies to lower cholesterol better than market leader Lipitor, which holds a 55 percent share of prescriptions and 49 percent of sales.

Zocor is from the class of drugs known as statins, and lowers cholesterol by cutting its production in the liver. Zetia, meanwhile, limits the absorption of cholesterol in the intestines.

Vytorin’s approval coincides with the release last week of new guidelines that call for high-risk heart patients to lower their so-called bad cholesterol, or LDL, to 70 instead of 100 as previously recommended.

The FDA was not immediately available for comment.

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