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Cholesterol combo not superior to solo drug

/ Source: The Associated Press

Drug developers Merck & Co. and Schering-Plough Corp. on Monday said patients with a predisposition to high cholesterol fared no better when taking their combination cholesterol drug Vytorin than with a high dose of the generic form of Zocor.

Vytorin is a combination of Zetia and Merck's Zocor, which lost patent protection in 2006. The study measured the amount of artery-clogging plaque in three areas.

It focused on a group of 720 patients with a rare condition predisposing them to high cholesterol. The patients were given either Vytorin or a high dose of generic Zocor, known as simvastatin.

In December, a congressional committee requested more information on the study. The results were delayed, the companies maintained, because of the complexity of the data.

The patients in the two-year study had rare condition called heterozygous familial hypercholesterolemia, which the companies said affected about less than 1 percent of the population.

Earlier this month, Merck CEO Richard T. Clark said he expected Vytorin to keep a secure position in the cholesterol drug market and cited several other ongoing studies in addition to this one.

Merck and Schering-Plough are conducting three additional studies, involving more than 20,000 high-risk patients.