Cholesterol-lowering prescription drug Zetia found to have no medical benefit

Here’s the bulletin from today’s New York Times: an FDA-approved, prescription drug used by a million people per week, is found to have no medical benefit. That is, it may lower cholesterol readings 15 – 20%–but there’s no evidence in any study showing that it decreases the rate of heart attack or stroke, or even lessens the plaque build-up in arteries that can lead to cardiovascular disease.

Once again, we’d like to point out that dietary supplements such as fish oil (omega-3) and niacin are certainly worthy of consideration by anyone concerned about cardiovascular health. And we hope that before reaching for the prescription pad, doctors will take a careful look at the evidence about these supplements.

See the posts under “Niacin,” “Fish Oil,” “Omega-3” and “Cardiovascular Disease” on this blog for further information.

January 14, 2008
Cholesterol Drug Has No Benefit in Trial
A clinical trial of Zetia, a cholesterol-lowering drug prescribed to about 1 million people a week, failed to show that the drug has any medical benefits, Merck and Schering-Plough said on Monday.
The results will add to the growing concern over Zetia and Vytorin, a drug that combines Zetia with another cholesterol medicine in a single pill. About 70 percent of patients who take Zetia do so in the form of Vytorin, which combines Zetia with the cholesterol drug Zocor.
While Zetia lowers cholesterol by 15 to 20 percent in most patients, no trial has ever shown that it can reduce heart attacks and strokes — or even that it reduces the growth of the fatty plaques in arteries that can cause heart problems.
This trial was designed to show that Zetia could reduce the growth of those plaques. Instead, the plaques actually grew somewhat faster in patients taking Zetia along with Zocor than in those taking Zocor alone. Patients in the trial who took the combination of Zetia and Zocor were receiving it in the form of Vytorin pills.
Dr. Steven Nissen, the chairman of cardiology at the Cleveland Clinic, said the results were “shocking.” Patients should not be prescribed Zetia unless all other cholesterol drugs have failed, he said.
“This is as bad a result for the drug as anybody could have feared,” Dr. Nissen said. Millions of patients may be taking a drug that has no benefits for them, raising their risk of heart attacks and exposing them to potential side effects, he said.


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