September 3, 2008

Drug’s Possible Cancer Risk Can’t Be Proved, Ruled Out


By Maria Cheng

The Associated Press

MUNICH, Germany

Results so far from three studies of the cholesterol-lowering drug Vytorin are not enough to prove or rule out a possible link to a higher risk of cancer, so the drug should be used with caution until more is known, editors of a leading medical journal urged Tuesday.

The New England Journal of Medicine published results online from one study and an analysis of partial results from two others. They also were presented at a cardiology conference in Munich.

Vytorin is a combination of Merck's Zocor, a long-sold statin drug, and Schering-Plough's Zetia, a newer type of medicine that lowers cholesterol in a different way.

The possible cancer risk unexpectedly arose in July, when Dr. Terje Pedersen of Oslo, Norway, announced preliminary results from a study testing whether Vytorin could prevent damage to the heart's aortic valve from worsening.

The drug made no difference in heart attacks, strokes or surgeries related to the valve problem. But doctors saw a greater number of cancer cases in those taking it compared with others given dummy pills. That prompted an interim analysis of results of two other ongoing studies of Vytorin by scientists at Oxford University in England. Their review found higher rates of cancer deaths among Vytorin users, but the number of cancer cases did not significantly differ.

Originally published by BY MARIA CHENG.

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