AT A GLANCE: Pharma companies react to Ezetrol result

THE LOWDOWN PLEASE... Results from a trial involving Ezetrol, a cholesterol-lowering drug made by Merck Sharp & Dohme and Schering-Plough, have been presented.

The drug was recommended last year by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) for use with a statin such as simvastatin for patients with high cholesterol.

SO WHAT'S THE PROBLEM?
The problem in this trial is that Ezetrol apparently does not work as well as expected when added to simvastatin. In fact, although the combination significantly lowered so-called 'bad' cholesterol more than simvastatin would have on its own, there was still no significant difference in terms of patient health between the double treatment and the simvastatin alone. People with high inherited cholesterol levels did not find their coronary artery disease slowed.

HOW HAVE THE MANUFACTURERS RESPONDED?
It must be said that, in comms terms, they have not exactly come out with all guns blazing. Schering-Plough's UK & Ireland comms manager Caroline Mitchell told PRWeek that a joint statement, issued last Sunday, would be the companies' only response for the moment. In a densely worded release they point out that the authors of the research are not sure why lowering cholesterol did not produce a better result. Chandler Chicco Agency has the account for Ezetrol in the UK.

HOW HAS THIS COME TO MARKET?
It has been one of those nightmare stories that has dribbled through the media's consciousness for a while now. The companies admitted in January that these trial results existed and in February the Daily Mail ran a large piece on it.

WHY WAS THE TIMES INTERESTED THIS WEEK THEN?
Because the results from said trial have finally been published in the New England Journal of Medicine and were presented last Sunday at the prestigious American College of Cardiology annual scientific session in Chicago. MSD and Schering-Plough issued their release the same day.

BUT THE UPSHOT IS THAT EZETROL WORKS?
Yes. Although the tone of the coverage has been that NICE has backed something that does not really work, this is a reference to Ezetrol in combination with simvastatin rather than the brand on its own.

Further information www.schering-plough.com

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