Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
16 Jan

Vytorin: Big Blow for Big Pharma

Well, folks, Big Pharma has done it again. This one really takes the cake.

When Merck and Schering-Plough revealed Monday that the active ingredient in their top-selling cholesterol meds Zetia and Vytorin had flunked a clinical trial measuring its effect on artery plaque, they opened themselves up to a barrage of attacks.

This drug doesn’t work. Period. It just doesn’t work,’ said Steven Nissen, head of cardiology at the Cleveland Clinic. U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak, a Michigan Democrat helping to lead a congressional investigation of the study, said, ‘It is easy to conclude that Merck and Schering-Plough intentionally sought to delay the release of this data.

via Forbes

The results of the study were finalized in April of 2006, but only released this week. These criminals corporations had a year and a half “grace period” to extract more money from the public before the results were published, and then only with pressure from Congress.

Zetia and Vytorin rake in $5 billion a year for the Merck and Schering. As Forbes goes on to report, pharmacy plans have recently favored the now generic and cheaper (less than $1 a pill) statin medication Zocor. With this drop in proceeds, it certainly was strategic timing for Big Pharma to team up and start pushing their Vytorin concoction at $3 a day.

The fact is, dietary intake of cholesterol is one small piece of cholesterol’s physiological puzzle. The body, on average, produces 1400 milligrams of its own cholesterol every day. Cholesterol is vital for the body’s healthy functioning. Sound and reliable medical research hasn’t proven that lowering cholesterol in and of itself – particularly in isolation of inflammation (which is the number one factor in heart disease) – reduces risk of death from heart disease across a population.

Nonetheless, the medical community continues to blindly insist that cholesterol-lowering medications are the best tools in our heart disease fighting arsenal. (Heaven forbid they make a real commitment to the power of nutrition and fitness.) Some doctors, in fact, have publicly said we should all be taking them as a “precautionary measure”! I’m dumbfounded at the level of irrationality behind this devotion (not to mention this outrageous recommendation), all despite the myriad of side effects, including liver problems, disabling muscle pain and weakness, cognitive dysfunction, cancer and heart disease. (Yes, you read that correctly.)

With Congress’ promise to follow up on this matter, we’ll hopefully get to hear more in the coming weeks and months. In the meantime, what’s your take on all this? Give us and the forum folks your thoughts.

pvera Flickr Photo (CC)

Further Reading:

Shellfish and Cholesterol

Rethinking Cholesterol

8 Foods to Lower LDL and Boost HDL Cholesterol

PharmaLot: AHA Counteroffensive – Vytorin isn’t “Unsafe”

PharmaGossip: Merck and Schering-Plough have their heads up their…

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You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Neat post. What the heck is that picture?

    Maggie B. wrote on January 16th, 2008
  2. Follow the Flickr photo link towards the bottom of the post to shed a little light on the image.

    Aaron wrote on January 16th, 2008
  3. I’m of mixed feeling on this one. Obviously these two drugs are suspect at best and the companies should be fined in a big way, but I do feel that cholesterol lowering drugs have their place. In my case I was over 200 total cholesterol with a low HDL before I hit age 40. I was working out 8 to 12 hours a week and eating very, very well (pretty much like you describe on this website) and yet my numbers were not good.
    I ended up on a low dose statin and within 6 months I was down to a “healthy” number.
    You cannot always do it with exercise and nutrition alone.

    Kevin Burnett wrote on January 17th, 2008
  4. Kevin,

    Warning: “tough love” ahead.

    My whole point is that your cholesterol levels are irrelevant in the big health picture. I think you and your doctor have bought into the mistaken idea that low cholesterol is somehow better than high cholesterol and that any number totaling over 200 needs to be aggressively dealth with. It ain’t necessarily so. I would suggest that if you were eating right and exercising appropriately, your body hit the exact numbers it needed and that’s where it wanted to stay. There is no magic to having artifically low numbers (produced by taking statin drugs). And the side effects of the statins out weigh the possible benefits (those minor benefits are probably just a mild anti-inflammatory effect – not the lowered cholesterol). So in many regards, you CAN always do it with diet and exercise – if you pick the right ones.

    Mark Sisson wrote on January 17th, 2008
  5. Mark,

    No worries, I’m tough.
    So, that’s the million dollar question – does having a lowered number actually do anything for me on an individual level. My doctor was quite clear on the fact that he could not tell me that having a lower number would help me at all. He says that accross a broad population it is pretty safe to say that lower numbers = better heart health, but in my case it may not make any difference. That said, in his opinion, keeping the number down through the use of a statin was less risky (assuming I tolerate the drug well – I’m tested twice a year to make sure of this) than having it above 200.
    So I may be taking it for nothing, but at this point it’s a bet I’m willing to take.
    Thanks for the great information.

    Kevin Burnett wrote on January 17th, 2008
  6. Kevin – actually, the all-cause death rate is lowest among people whose cholesterol is between 180 and 220. So your doctor is in error by isolating a single factor – heart health – and ignoring other health factors that Mark described in the main post, such as liver, muscle, and nervous system health, as well as cancer risk.

    How much over 200 were you?

    Migraineur wrote on January 18th, 2008

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