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Vytorin Lawsuits Piled High Over Low Cholesterol Claims

Posted on November 8, 2008

You know the Vytorin commercials – comparing eating fettucini alfredo with your Uncle Alfredo – both are sources of high cholesterol, the ads said. Food and family are both to blame.

Now the lawsuits against the drug are piling up higher and Merck & Co and partner, Schering-Plough Corp have to answer questions to the Justice Department about whether the promotion of Vytorin made false claims.

Specifically, they want to know if the drug makers made false claims to federal health care programs. If so, the programs could be due a refund and may seek to recover the money spent on the drug.

So far 35 state attorneys general are involved in the investigation. And since January, Merck has been served with about 140 class-action lawsuits which also allege consumer fraud in connection with two cholesterol drugs sold by the partnership.

Former patients allege that the companies withheld significant findings from doctors about the medications ineffectiveness in reducing plaque that leads to heart attack or stroke.

Vytorin and its component, Zetia have been blockbuster drugs in the cholesterol market. Their sales last year reached $5.2 billion, but sales are off about 15 percent since last fall.

In January after pressure from Congress, the two companies finally released the results of a long awaited study called Enhance, that showed that expensive Vytorin didn’t do the job of reducing plaque buildup any better than its second component, a generic cholesterol drug called Zocor costing about one-third as much.

That led to questions whether the companies deliberately delayed releasing the study’;s results to boost sales of Vytorin and Zetia, a charge the companies have denied.

Meanwhile the commercials about Uncle Alfredo were pulled from the airwaves in January of this year. #