Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Zetia: NOT Right For You

A few months ago I heard one of the Air America morning folks say that cholesterol-lowering drugs are just another Big Pharma boondoggle. I was shocked, I mean, we all know cholesterol causes heart disease, right? So lowering cholesterol has to be a good thing, right?

We’ve all been such chumps:
A clinical trial of Zetia, a cholesterol-lowering drug prescribed to about 1 million people a week, failed to show that the drug has any medical benefits, Merck and Schering-Plough said on Monday.

The results will add to the growing concern over Zetia and Vytorin, a drug that combines Zetia with another cholesterol medicine in a single pill. About 60 percent of patients who take Zetia do so in the form of Vytorin, which combines Zetia with the cholesterol drug Zocor.

While Zetia lowers cholesterol by 15 percent to 20 percent in most patients, no trial has ever shown that it can reduce heart attacks and strokes — or even that it reduces the growth of the fatty plaques in arteries that can cause heart problems.

This trial was designed to show that Zetia could reduce the growth of those plaques. Instead, the plaques actually grew almost twice as fast in patients taking Zetia along with Zocor than in those taking Zocor alone.

Well, at least Merck and Schering-Plough rushed these results out to the public, I mean, goodness, this article says the drugs cost $3 a day -- that’s over $1,000 a year, a considerable sum for some people.

Not so fast:

Merck and Schering-Plough completed the trial in April 2006 and had initially planned to release the findings no later than March 2007. But the companies then missed several self-imposed deadlines, citing the complexity of the data analysis from the study and saying they did not know when or if the data would be ready for publication.

Last month, after several news articles highlighted the delay, they finally agreed to release the results soon.

Well, no one could have anticipated that. 70 percent of Schering’s earnings come from this drug, I’m sure they were eager to rush news of it’s uselessness to the market.

I’ve been really concerned about the increasingly lax clinical trials and approval procedure at the FDA. Some of these drugs may even be dangerous. They don’t fix the problem they’re supposed to, and yet they account for billions of dollars in sales. And the media won’t tell us this information because geez, have you turned on a television lately? Pharmaceutical ads are just about all there is anymore. Big Pharma is keeping the mainstream media flush.

Someone needs to take a fresh look at the FDA and the pharmaceutical industry, And it’s not going to be a big business GOPer or a Democrat taking campaign contributions from the pharmaceutical lobby.

It’s going to take someone who cares more about people than corporations.

Now, who would that be, I wonder?