Study casts doubt on Zetia, Vytorin benefits

NBC Nightly News (11/15, story 7, 0:20, Holt) reported that research presented at the American Heart Association meeting and published “in the New England Journal of Medicine says that Zetia [ezetimibe] fails to shrink buildups in artery walls and found evidence that Zetia users were more prone to heart attacks and other problems.”

Based on the findings, the study’s lead author questioned “whether ezetimibe works at all,” noting that “in this trial [niacin] was a clear superior choice,” USA Today (11/16, Sternberg) reports. For the study, “363 people who had heart disease or a high risk of heart problems” and who “had been taking statins,” were randomized to niacin or Zetia. The researchers then compared “ultrasound images of neck arteries.”

The Washington Post (11/16, Layton) reports that the 14-month study revealed that “the patients who took Niaspan [niacin] had less plaque in their arteries and also had higher levels of high-density lipoprotein or HDL.” Meanwhile, those who “took Zetia had more plaque in their arteries, but lower levels of LDL.” The Zetia patients also “had more heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiovascular problems” compared to patients taking niacin.

Bloomberg News (11/16, Pettypiece) reports that the study’s “negative result is the third in two years for Zetia and Vytorin [ezetimibe/simvastatin].” In a study called Enhance, researchers found that “Vytorin didn’t help artery health more than Merck’s Zocor,” while in a separate study, “more patients taking Vytorin developed cancer than those on a placebo.”

Zetia, approved by the FDA “in 2002 to lower bad cholesterol,” has “not yet proved to have a longer-term clinical benefit in reducing heart attacks and death,” the New York Times (11/16, A16) reports.

The AP (11/16, Marchione), HealthDay (11/15, Gardner), MedPage Today (11/15, Peck), Forbes (11/16, Herper), Dow Jones Newswire (11/16, Dooren), Reuters (11/16, Berkrot, Pierson), the Los Angeles Times (11/15, Maugh) “Booster Shots” blog, and HeartWire (11/15, O’Riordan) also covered the story.

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