New drug reduces heart attacks, but is that enough? – The San Luis Obispo Tribune

So-so results for a new type of cholesterol drug have left Merck in a quandary: Does the company try to bring it to market or scrap it?

A large, long-term study of the drug showed that it prevents heart attacks and reduces the need for heart procedures, while three similar drugs developed by rivals failed. But the drug, anacetrapib, only reduced those complications by 9 percent.

Now Merck, which has spent 13 years and likely hundreds of millions of dollars testing the drug, has to decide whether to spend even more to seek approval from regulators and convince people to buy it in a market full of cholesterol drugs.

The results of the 30,450-patient study were announced Tuesday at a conference of heart specialists in Barcelona, Spain and published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The study found that anacetrapib is safe and somewhat effective.

That kind of result is normally enough to seek approval to market a new medicine, especially for heart disease, which is the top killer in many developed countries. Yet even after seeing the results weeks ago, Merck says its executives are still consulting with medical experts and regulators on whether to go through the costly process of applying for approval.


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