Merck recently announced that it will pay $688 million to settle two class action lawsuits brought by pension funds and other shareholders. The investors accused the company of withholding negative data from the ENHANCE clinical trial. During that trial, Vytorin (a combination of the generic cholesterol drug Zocor and the new drug Zetia) was compared to simvastatin alone in preventing the progression of atherosclerosis. The suits asserted that Merck had known for nearly two years that the clinical trial failed to show that Vytorin was any better than the statin alone at limiting the buildup of plaque in arteries, but they did not make the results public until 2008.
Vytorin and Zetia were heavily promoted despite skepticism by cardiologists. Approximately 800,000 prescriptions for these drugs were written each week in 2007, which made up nearly 20% of the market for cholesterol-lowering medications. Upon the release of the clinical trial results, prescriptions fell and Vytorin has never recovered.
Source: The New York Times
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