Old guidelines boosted Zetia prescriptions

Share this article:
Old guidelines boosted Zetia prescriptions
Old guidelines boosted Zetia prescriptions

Despite new US cholesterol guidelines and a clinical trial that tamped down hopes that Merck's cholesterol drug Zetia could make a difference in the rare disease space, an analysis of prescription trends found that the drug continues to plug along, earning almost $3 billion in sales in 2013.

While the drugmaker gives a price hike some of the credit, researchers found that a bigger force is in play: Canada and outdated lipid guidelines that said Zetia could be added to statins. These guidelines stayed in place despite the clinical trial ENHANCE (published in 2008), which showed that patients taking a combination of Zetia and simvastatin did not have a lower incidence of atherosclerosis than did patients on a simvastatin-only regimen.

Researchers found that the study was followed by at 47.1% drop in US prescriptions by 2009, whereas Canada's prescriptions started to rise. Researchers also found a higher use in one province: Saskatchewan, which has the drug on an unrestricted formulary level. Researchers believe this formulary status led to “a large number of inappropriate prescriptions, at odds with Canadian clinical guidelines.”

Researchers also credit marketing with bolstering Zetia's commercial life, noting that advertisements tend to focus on cholesterol numbers, whereas the US guidelines have recently set this metric aside. This change has led to speculation that while doctors may continue to prescribe statins, add-ons—like Merck's Zetia and Vytorin—could wane.

The drugmaker is also waiting for another Zetia outcomes study to wrap later this year. This study, called IMPROVE-IT, assesses Merck's Vytorin, a combination drug that includes Zetia and simvistatin, and is set on determining if the drug is associated with a lower risk of CV death, major coronary events, and stroke.

Meanwhile, Zetia's patent has only two years left in the US.

Share this article:
You must be a registered member of MMM to post a comment.

MM&M EBOOK: PATIENT ACCESS

Patient access to pharmaceuticals is a tale of two worlds—affordability has improved for the majority, while the minority is hampered by cost, distribution and red tape. To provide marketers with a well-rounded perspective, MM&M presents this e-book chock full of key insights. Click here to access it.

More in Channel

Five things for pharma marketers to know: Monday, September 15

Five things for pharma marketers to know: ...

Pharma has sought 76 meetings with FDA over biosimilars; Gilead licenses Sovaldi to India generic drugmakers; Pfizer and Ranbaxy Lipitor lawsuit dismissed.

Liraglutide, aiming for new indication, gets new name

Liraglutide, aiming for new indication, gets new name

Why Novo Nordisk is choosing not to leverage Victoza's brand equity as it seeks a weight-loss indication for liraglutide.

Five things for pharma marketers to know: Friday, September 12

Five things for pharma marketers to know: Friday, ...

An FDA panel voted in favor of liraglutide for weight loss; Allergan investors backing an attempted takeover of the firm crossed a critical threshold; and 100 million health wearables are ...