Vytorin, developed and marketed jointly by Merck and Schering-Plough, is a combination of cholesterol-lowering Zetia and the statin Zocor. Statins like Zocor reduce the amount of cholesterol produced by the liver, while Zetia lessens the amount of cholesterol in food that is absorbed in the intestines. High cholesterol levels put a person at risk of developing clogged arteries. It was thought that by using Vytorin to reduce both sources of cholesterol, the amount of artery clogging plaque would also be reduced.
Congress is investigating whether the makers of Vytorin withheld data that would have hurt sales. This week, there was a release of new evidence supporting the suspicions.
The Senate's committee has said that the researcher who led a crucial study of the drug accused Vytorin makers Merck & Co. and partner Schering-Plough Corp. actually withheld.
A letter from the committee's ranking Republican, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, states that delaying the results affected medical decisions and put financial burdens on patients and the federal government, which has paid hundreds of millions of dollars for Vytorin since the study ended nearly 2 years ago.
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