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Most of us, at some time or another, have had our blood drawn at our doctor's office to have our cholesterol levels measured. Cholesterol is the soft, waxy substance found in the fats in our blood and in all of the cells of our bodies. Too much cholesterol in our blood is a major risk factor for heart disease, and if not properly treated, hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol) can lead to a heart attack. Cholesterol and other fats cannot be dissolved in the blood and must be transported to and from the cells by special carriers called lipoproteins.
There are two types of lipoproteins: Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL), known as "bad" and "good" cholesterol, respectively. LDL is the major cholesterol carrier in the blood, and if an excessive amount of cholesterol builds up in the walls of the arteries, a thick plaque can clog our arteries. A high LDL reading indicates an increased risk of heart disease. About one-third to one-fourth of cholesterol is HDL. Some medical experts believe HDL removes excess cholesterol from plaques and slows their growth. This is known as the "good cholesterol" because it seems to protect people against heart attacks.
Efficacy of Drugs to Lower Cholesterol Being Questioned
There are many cholesterol-lowering drugs on the market today, and, for the last several years, two of the most popular have been Zetia (generic ezetimibe) and Vytorin (generic simvastatin). Vytorin is actually a combination of Zetia and another drug, Zocor. But, recent clinical findings have indicated some very bad news for manufacturers of these drugs, Merck and Schering-Plough: The drugs simply do not work.
In April 2006, a study was conducted that was named "ENHANCE," and the results are disastrous for the drug giants that manufacture these top-selling cholesterol-lowering drugs. In fact, the findings will be so detrimental to the drug companies that the final results have not been made available until almost two years since they were discovered. The companies have been sitting on the data, perhaps in an effort to protect themselves and their cash cows. Zetia and Vytorin have generated annual sales of $5 billion and are prescribed approximately 100,000 times a day globally.
The Zetia/Vytorin study was conducted in 720 patients with hypercholesterolemia and cholesterol readings above 300. Such a high level of cholesterol makes these people much more likely to have heart attacks. Even though the patients on Vytorin had a 58% drop in LDL, or bad cholesterol, after two years compared to 41% for Zocor, the change in artery plaque was no different--if anything, it was a little worse for Vytorin. Vytorin caused a change in thickness of the arteries that was statistically the same after two years of use. Simply put, the supposed "cholesterol-lowering drugs" did not do everything they were prescribed to do.
While many of us do not give much thought to the size of our arteries, we are all concerned our longevity. To that end, Merck and Schering-Plough are testing the drugs in three large trials involving more than 20,000 patients to determine the drugs' abilities to lower the risk for heart attacks and other cardiac events. The future of these drugs depends on these trials.
While these drugs may not be considered dangerous yet and there is no talk of recall at this time, taking medications that simply do not help the problem for which they were prescribed can certainly be harmful to the millions of men and women who have taken these drugs for years.
If you or a loved one take have taken Zetia or Vytorin and developed valvular heart disease or other serious side effects, you should contact a pharmaceutical injury lawyer today as you may be entitled to compensation.
Contact us today to find an experienced pharmaceutical injury lawyer near you.