Vytorin Prescription Linked to Cancer

Vytorin Prescription Linked to Cancer

Results from three studies of the cholesterol-lowering drug Vytorin are not enough to prove or rule out a possible link to a higher risk of cancer, so the drug should be used with great caution until more is known, editors of a leading medical journal urged Tuesday.

The New England Journal of Medicine published results of the studies, which also were presented at a cardiology conference in Munich.

Vytorin is a combination of Merck’s Zocor, a long-sold statin drug, and Schering-Plough’s Zetia, a newer type of medicine that lowers cholesterol in a different way.

The possible cancer risk unexpectedly arose in July, when Dr. Terje Pedersen of Oslo, Norway, announced preliminary results from a study testing whether Vytorin could prevent damage to the heart’s aortic valve from worsening.

In the trial, called SEAS, 4.1% of patients taking Vytorin died of some form of cancer — more than the 2.5% of patients who received an inactive placebo.

“While other clinical trial data do not indicate an increase in cancer risk, the FDA is alerting doctors and patients now while it awaits further data from the manufacturers, which they should receive in about three months. After that point, the FDA says it’ll take an additional six months for a complete evaluation of the data.”

It was reported earlier in 2008 a Vytorin clinical trial showed that Vytorin did not reduce artery-clogging plaque better than Zocor alone.