January 20, 2008 / 7:57 PM / 12 years ago

Schering, Merck defend cholesterol drugs in ads

NEW YORK, Jan 20 (Reuters) - Schering-Plough Corp SGP.N and Merck & Co (MRK.N) are defending their shared cholesterol treatments, Vytorin and Zetia, in advertisements after a failed study generated negative publicity.

The companies released results on Monday showing that Vytorin failed its primary goal of preventing fatty plaque buildup in carotid arteries more effectively than the widely used generic cholesterol fighter, Zocor, leading some cardiologists to question Vytorin’s value.

Vytorin combines Zetia and Zocor, known generically as simvastatin, into one pill. Vytorin did cut levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol more than Zocor, although that was not the study’s main focus.

A full-page ad in The New York Times on Sunday said that Vytorin and Zetia users “may be worried about recent news stories questioning the benefit of these medicines...on the basis of a single study that has generated a lot of confusion.”

The ad cites the drugs’ ability to lower LDL cholesterol and urges patients to follow their doctors’ recommendations on taking prescribed medicines.

“All of us at Merck and Schering-Plough proudly stand behind the established efficacy and safety profiles of Zetia and Vytorin,” the ad says.

Under the main text of the ad appears the names of top medical officers at the companies, which jointly sell Zetia and Vytorin.

Similar ads also appeared in the Wall Street Journal and the Star-Ledger of Newark, New Jersey, Schering-Plough spokesman Lee Davies said.

“We plan to continue this campaign to provide appropriate balance and perspective to patients and, if they believe they have the need, to encourage them to talk to their doctors about their treatment,” Davies said in an e-mail.

Vytorin and Zetia have combined annual sales of about $5 billion. Last week shares of Schering-Plough fell about 23 percent and shares of Merck were down about 12 percent. (Reporting by Lewis Krauskopf; editing by Carol Bishopric)

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