New York to probe handling of Vytorin data by Merck & Co., Schering-Plough

Merck & Co. and Schering-Plough reported that the companies received subpoenas from New York's Attorney General, Andrew Cuomo, regarding allegations that negative study results for Vytorin were "deliberately concealed" until their release earlier this month, two years after the trial concluded. The state's investigation is also looking into "aggressive marketing" of the statin, as well as the appropriateness of certain insiders' share sales and the accuracy of statements to investors.

"We will investigate and, when appropriate, hold accountable drug companies for engaging in irresponsible and deceptive conduct and any deceitful marketing of prescription drugs," Cuomo commented. The attorney general noted that New York's Medicaid programme spent $21 million for Vytorin over the past two years instead of buying a generic product that could be comparable to the branded drug. Data from the ENHANCE study released January 14 showed that Vytorin was not more effective than Zocor at reducing plaque buildup in the arteries of certain patients.

In response, both companies stated that they would cooperate with Cuomo's office. Merck spokesman Chris Garland noted that the drugmaker "stands behind the safety and efficacy profiles of Zetia and Vytorin. We acted with integrity and good faith with respect to the [ENHANCE] trial." Spokesperson Rosemarie Yancosek of Schering-Plough added: "We stand behind our products as we have done nothing wrong."

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