Experts call the okay given to a risky drug combo a ‘disturbing' decision

Drug warning: Two dangerous meds combined spell double trouble

Yesterday I told you about a doctor in Italy who ended up on Merck’s “hit list.”

He had thoroughly researched one of its blockbuster drugs, Zetia, and the drug company didn’t want the world to hear his findings. I’m sure you can guess what he said wasn’t fit for a Zetia commercial!

But if you’re wondering why this Big Pharma giant was in such a panic about a drug that’s been on the market for almost 12 years, it may be because they still have big plans for it.

Big money-making plans.

Plans like a new toxic twofer that can pack twice the risks.

And despite an initial turndown, a still unfinished study to see if it even works, and experts crying “Foul,” the FDA gave its blessings for this “new” Zetia combo drug.

Even Merck itself says it won’t lower your risk of getting heart disease!

So why was it approved in the first place? And why in the world are doctor’s even prescribing it?

Experts are calling the FDA’s approval of Liptruzet “extremely surprising and disturbing.”

Now those who know how the FDA works certainly aren’t surprised.

But those who know how dangerous these two drugs are, well, it’s obvious why they’re “disturbed.”

Liptruzet is a combination of Merck’s cholesterol drug Zetia and a generic version of Lipitor.

So you’ve got all the dangers of a statin, you know, fun things like diabetes, together with all the dangers of Zetia. And that list is a long one: depression, aggressive behavior, memory problems, muscle breakdown and damage to your liver and other organs.

The group Public Citizen has had Zetia (also known by its generic name of ezetimible) on its “Do not use” list for years. The group also warns that when Zetia is combined with a statin — which is exactly what Liptruzet is — it increases your risk of serious liver damage.

Bottom line: these drugs are more dangerous to your liver when combined than if they were taken alone!

But if this formula sounds familiar to you, that’s because it is.

Merck put another combo of Zetia and a statin on the market 10 years ago called Vytorin. And like Liptruzet, that one also has terrible side effects and doesn’t lower your risk of heart attack or stroke!

So what’s going on here? Is Merck just flooding the market with risky, ineffective drugs for fun?

It’s more like for the money.

Sales of both Zetia and Vytorin are dropping every year. And then there are expiring patents to think about. In its heyday year of 2007, sales of both these drugs fetched Merck a whopping $5 billion.

But now poor Merck is only making around $2.6 billion a year for Zetia and $1.8 billion on Vytorin. Maybe we should be holding a fundraiser for them!

Of course, the FDA is only too happy to help when Merck needs a shot in the arm with a “new” drug — or at least, one that has a new patent. Experts though, are still shocked that the FDA would approve Liptruzet.

Dr. Steven Nissen from the Cleveland Clinic said it just “does not make any sense,” and that it looks like the FDA is “tone deaf” to all the concerns raised about the previous Zetia/statin combo.

And while we’re talking about tone deaf, let me introduce you to Dr. Howard Weintraub, director for the prevention of cardiovascular disease at New York University School of Medicine.

Despite the evidence shouting to avoid this dangerous combination, he found a selling point. Weintraub said that Liptruzet’s big “advantage” is that you only have to take one pill. He said that “There’s no patient alive who would rather take 2 pills than one.”

Are you kidding me? That’s the best reason for Liptruzet they can come up with — 1 pill versus 2?

Sorry, Dr. Weintraub. I think we’d rather stay alive, even if that means having to pop 2 pills.

Actually, if we’re talking about staying alive, I guess the right number of these pills is zero.

Sources:
“Drug to cut cholesterol is approved by the F.D.A.” Katie Thomas, The New York Times, nytimes.com