New Statin Drug Out

Crestor, a relative newcomer to the stain market, will soon contend with what some experts have labeled "a formidable rival." U.S. pharmaceutical giants, Merck & Co. and Schering-Plough, are expected to win federal clearance later this month to jointly market Vytorin, which combines in a single pill two older cholesterol medications, Zocor and Zetia.

Merck and Schering-Plough are expected to portray Vytorin as on par with Crestor in terms of effectiveness at lowering cholesterol, but without the concerns about side effects that have plagued Crestor.

One analyst believes, because the publicized side-effects of Crestor have been a drag on sales, if there were another drug with the same potency available, doctors would opt for the newer drug.

Claims of superior effectiveness have been the foundation of AstraZeneca's ambitious Crestor marketing strategy, which has included heavy television advertising. AstraZeneca describes Crestor as better than older drugs, such as Lipitor, in lowering cholesterol levels. But Crestor, which cleared U.S. marketing clearance nearly a year ago, has faced concerns about potential side effects, including muscle toxicity.

Crestor and rival Zocor, one half of the new Vytorin combination, work by interfering with the production of cholesterol in the liver. Zetia, the other half of the Vytorin combination, limits the absorption of cholesterol in the intestines. Zetia and Zocor are supposed to complement each other, allowing patients to achieve greater cholesterol reduction without having to use high doses of either medication.

The News Journal July 20, 2004

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