How a drug company tried to muzzle the doc in charge of a public health agency

A Piece: Merck, Zetia, Dr. Alberto Donzelli, cholesterol, drugs for cholesterol, Merck drugs, Italy, doctor threatened with lawsuit
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The dangerous facts Merck wants kept a deep, dark secret

Dr. Alberto Donzelli ended up somewhere not a lot of doctors do — on Big Pharma’s “hit” list.

Normally this type of reaction is reserved for class-action lawsuits or legislative threats out of Washington.

So what did this simple doctor from Milan do to warrant the wrath — and the full legal assault — of one of the biggest companies in the world?

He told the truth…about Zetia, one of Merck’s blockbuster drugs.

And the truth is the last thing Merck wants you to know.

Now, Dr. Donzelli was only doing his job as the head of a public health agency in Milan, Italy.

So he shared his research with other doctors through memos, texts and information posted at his website about Zetia for other doctors to read.

But Merck knew that if this information went viral, sales of Zetia could hit rock bottom.

So they called in their big guns…their legal eagles, and served Dr. Donzelli — and his boss — with a cease-and-desist and threatened to sue.

As you can imagine, this got the medical community up in arms. After all, that’s a doctor’s duty to warn other colleagues when vital drug information comes to his attention. Especially a doctor whose job it is to educate.

Finally, the drug company backed down and said it wouldn’t sue Dr. Donzelli.

Gee, thanks Merck! That’s very considerate of you not to threaten a doctor for doing what his job and conscience tell him is the right thing to do.

Of course the damage has already been done. I’m sure Dr. Donzelli will think twice about what he says about any drug — for a while, anyway.

So what did Dr. Donzelli say that got such a reaction from Merck?

Don’t take Zetia.

And don’t take its “sister” drug either, one called Vytorin. That drug is a combination of Zetia and Merck’s old cholesterol drug Zocor.

These drugs don’t work. Experts are calling them “useless.” Taking either of them is all risk with no benefit.

Even though Zetia and Vytorin have been flying off Rx pads for years, it still hasn’t been shown that they prevent heart attacks or strokes. In fact, they may do just the opposite.

A few years ago Merck did a study about the Zetia combo drug. It found that cholesterol numbers dropped — but the drug did nothing to reduce thickness of the carotid arteries — the blood vessels in the neck. In some cases the artery thickness actually increased!

Even the FDA ran a story on its Web site saying that there is no “definitive evidence that it (Zetia) lowers the risk for cardiovascular disease.”

Let me say that again. The FDA approved this drug over 10 years ago and is still waiting to find out if it can reduce the risk of heart disease! What in the world was it approved for in the first place?

Dr. Steven Nissen from the Cleveland Clinic said that patients have “spent billions on a drug that may turn out to be a placebo.”

But unfortunately, taking Zetia brings some very real risks to the table. Risks that include a possibly fatal breakdown of your muscles, damage to your liver and other organs, infections and pain in your extremities. And that’s the short list.

All of which makes Zetia the most dangerous “placebo” ever.

“Merck attacks Italian critic of cholesterol fighter Zetia, then backs off” Arlene Weintraub, July 8, 2014, FiercePharma,