September 3, 2008

Medical Journal Urges More Vytorin Study

An editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine says more study is needed of the cholesterol-lowering drugs Zetia and Vytorin.

Researchers reported last month that patients in three clinical trials had a 40 percent higher chance of dying of cancer if they took Vytorin instead of a placebo, the New York Times reported Tuesday.

Vytorin is a combination drug containing ezetimibe, the generic name for Zetia.

Drug makers Merck and Schering-Plough say ezetimibe showed no cancer risk in animal trials and argue that the cancer finding is probably a result of chance.

The editors of the New England Journal of Medicine, however, said it is "appropriate to raise a note of caution."

"Whether the increased mortality risk is due solely to the play of chance is uncertain," the report said. "Ezetimibe interferes with the gastrointestinal absorption not only of cholesterol, but also of other molecular entities that could conceivably affect the growth of cancer cells. The fact that the combined data from all three trials showed an increase in cancer mortality with ezetimibe should not be assumed to be a chance finding until further data are in."