January 22, 2008 / 4:25 PM / 11 years ago

Vytorin prescriptions off, but stability seen-analyst

WASHINGTON, Jan 22 (Reuters) - New prescriptions for Schering-Plough SGP.N and Merck’s (MRK.N) Vytorin cholesterol drug plunged after negative trial results were revealed, though the rout stabilized after a few days, according to a Wall Street analysis.

The companies on Jan. 14 released data showing that Vytorin failed to prevent fatty plaque buildup in carotid arteries more effectively than the widely used generic cholesterol fighter, Zocor, leading some cardiologists to question Vytorin’s value.

New prescriptions for Vytorin fell from 22,460 on Jan. 14, the day the results were announced, to 15,829 by Friday, Jan. 18, according to an analysis of industry data by Morgan Stanley.

The free-fall stabilized in terms of market share, though, with Vytorin at 11 percent of new prescriptions before the results came out, ending at nearly 8 percent on Friday.

The primary beneficiary was Pfizer’s Lipitor, according to the analysis. AstraZeneca’s (AZN.L) Crestor also benefited.

Using a seven-day rolling average, new Vytorin prescriptions were down about 1.8 percent during the week. Using that same measure, Lipitor prescriptions rose 1.3 percent.

“While this is still early, we see this trend as positive, although it will take several more weeks of data to get a more concrete understanding of new market share trends,” Morgan Stanley analysts said.

Vytorin combines Zetia and Zocor, known generically as simvastatin, into one pill.

Vytorin and Zetia have combined annual sales of about $5 billion. Last week, shares of Schering-Plough fell about 23 percent and Merck’s shares were down about 12 percent.

In early New York Stock Exchange trading on Tuesday, Schering-Plough stock fell 2.5 percent to $20.73 and Merck’s shares were down 2.4 percent at $52.01. (Reporting by Kim Dixon, editing by Maureen Bavdek)

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