Combo Tablet for Cholesterol

The FDA has approved Vytorin™, a combination tablet of generic ezetimibe (Zetia tablet, Schering-Plough), and drug simvastatin (Zocor medication, Merck). The medication combines a cholesterol blocker with a popular statin. It inhibits the production of cholesterol in the liver and blocks the absorption of cholesterol in the intestine, including cholesterol from food.

In a 12-week study, the drug reduced low-density lipoprotein cholesterol by 52% at the recommended starting dose (10/20 mg) and by 60% at the maximum dose (10/80 mg).

The new goals are expected to lead doctors to increase the use of drugs to reduce cholesterol levels when diet and exercise do not achieve the lower num­bers. At least 36 million patients are candidates for statins.

Only 50% of patients are still taking cholesterol drugs a year after beginning the regimen, doctors say. A combination tablet might make it easier for patients to remember to take their medications.

A single product would also carry one co-payment and could be less expensive, but whether Vytorin™ will be economical will depend on its price.

For more information about Vytorin™, see the Pharmaceutical-Approval Update on page 507 of this issue of P&T.