Matt Herper writes:
Every day millions of people swallow Zetia and Vytorin in the hopes of reducing their risk of heart attacks and strokes, generating $5 billion a year in sales for Merck and Schering-Plough, which produce them.
Do they work?
Despite millions of prescriptions, no study has ever shown that these $3-a-day pills prevent heart attacks, strokes or deaths any better than just taking older drugs like Pfizer's Lipitor or Merck's off-patent Zocor, even though they're proven cholesterol fighters. That's why a two-year delay in a 720-person study aimed at clarifying the issue has cardiologists expressing skepticism and spinning conspiracy theories. If the news were good, the companies would rush it out, the thinking goes. Delay doesn't bode well.
"It starts to raise suspicion," says Allen J. Taylor, head of cardiology at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. "The more time it takes, the more you start to naturally wonder what is wrong."