Cholesterol Drug Zetia Doesn't Cut Heart Attack Risk: Study
Mar. 23 -- MONDAY, Jan. 14 (HealthDay News)-- The long-awaited results of a trial of Zetia, a cholesterol-lowering drug prescribed to about a million Americans, shows the drug confers no medical benefit to users.
In fact, the pace at which artery-clogging plaques formed within vessels almost doubled in patients taking Zetia (ezetimibe) along with another cholesterol-lowering drug, Zocor (simvastatin), compared to those taking Zocor alone, the study found.
The two medications -- ezetimibe plus simvastatin -- are also marketed in one prescription pill, called Vytorin. About 60 percent of U.S. patients who are taking Zetia now receive the drug as part of Vytorin.
But the new two-year trial of 720 patients sheds doubt on whether it makes any sense for people battling cholesterol to take Vytorin versus Zocor alone, experts said. The study was funded by the two companies that make Zetia, Merck and Schering-Plough.
"This wraps it up," said Dr. Steven E. Nissen, chairman of cardiology at the Cleveland Clinic. "That's all there is. There just isn't any evidence that adding ezetimibe to simvastatin produces any advantage."
No one is disputing that Zetia can lower levels of LDL "bad" cholesterol by 15 percent to 20 percent -- that had been shown in previous trials. However, whether that reduction led to any greater lowering of heart attack or stroke risk had remained unclear.
The new ENHANCE trial -- which involved patients with a genetic condition that causes abnormally high levels of blood cholesterol -- found no such added benefit. According to a statement released by the two drug companies Monday, researchers found no statistically significant difference in heart attacks or stroke among trial participants who took Zetia plus Zocor, a widely used cholesterol-lower drug, versus those who got Zocor alone.
The study also noted that the speed at which arteries thickened with plaque almost doubled among those on the two-drug regimen compared to those taking Zocor alone.