Concern over Pfizer’s heart drug combo

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A front page New York Times article today opened up the controversy surrounding Pfizer's pipeline heart treatment torcetrapib after the company revealed plans only to sell the drug in combination with its cholesterol-lowering treatment Lipitor.
In the report, Pfizer said selling torcetrapib and Lipitor together makes sense because the two drugs work in complementary ways. Torcetrapib is designed to raise a patient's HDL or good cholesterol, while Lipitor lowers LDL or bad cholesterol.
"We're talking about a combination of molecules that could have a great effect," John LaMattina, president of Pfizer's worldwide research and development division told The Times. LaMattina said he believed patients and doctors should be happy to use torcetrapib with Lipitor, which some studies have shown to be the most effective statin drug.
Even if the drug can overcome several hurdles before it is approved, including concerns it may raise blood pressure, it is not expected to reach the market until 2007 at the earliest.
But some critics are saying that Pfizer is only combining the drugs to protect Lipitor from generic competition. Lipitor was the world's top-selling prescription drug in 2004, with sales of over $11 billion.
Authorities on drug development told The Times that the FDA may have no choice but to approve a combination treatment if it proves more effective at preventing heart disease than Lipitor by itself.
Researchers sponsored by Pfizer were expected to present results on torcetrapib today at a cardiology conference in Orlando, Fla.
According to an abstract of the presentation, posted on a Web site about the conference, the studies showed similar results for both torcetrapib alone and for the torcetrapib-Lipitor combination.


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