Zetia, a cholesterol-lowering drug prescribed to about 1 million people each week, has no medical benefits, according to a trial by Merck and Schering-Plough.
While the pill does lower cholesterol by 15 percent to 20 percent, trials have not shown that Zetia reduces heart attacks or strokes, or that it reduces plaques in arteries that can lead to heart problems.
The current trial, which studied whether Zetia could reduce the growth of plaques, found that plaques grew nearly twice as fast in patients taking Zetia along with Zocor than in those taking Zocor alone.
Patients who took both Zetia and Zocor received it in the form of Vytorin, a pill that combines the medications.
Experts have called the results “shocking,” saying that Zetia should not be prescribed unless all other cholesterol drugs have failed.
The results also add to the controversy over Merck and Schering-Plough’s delays in releasing them. The trial was completed in April 2006, with results scheduled to be released in March 2007. However, the companies missed several deadlines, and only agreed to release the results after media outlets focused on their continued delays.
Zetia and Vytorin account for about 20 percent of the cholesterol drugs on the U.S. market.
Dr. Court’s Comments
It never ceases to amaze me that drugs that sell billions actually have no proven benefit. While it is true that this drug will lower total cholesterol, this does not correlate to a reduction in heart attack or stroke, as the maker implies in its advertising. This, however, makes sense with what is known about cholesterol. Many studies have been done that show arbitrarily lowering cholesterol is not an effective way to reduce cardiovascular risk. The makers of the statin class of drugs prefers that you don’ t know that though. Total cholesterol is meaningless. Most laboratories recommend that cholesterol be under 200, but studies show that just as many people with cholesterol under 200 have heart attacks as people with cholesterol above 200. So what does this mean? This means that there is another factor at work and to give people more drugs to lower cholesterol is irresponsible! The factor that should be looked at is inflammation. Inflammation is what damages arteries and causes plaque build up on their walls. As a matter of fact, studies are being done to see if statins can actually lower inflammation as well. We all know the pharmaceutical industry will not let the “statin cash cow” go quietly into the night.
There are many natural solutions to lowering cholesterol, should it need to be lowered. Before you start a statin make sure you know the break down of the cholesterol particles. That is, the HDL (good) vs. LDL (bad). This ratio is much more important than the total number. Also, find out what your triglyceride number is. This also plays into the equation.