Vytorin (Ezetimibe/simvastatin) Doesn’t Work; You Wouldn’t Know.

Apr 7th, 2008 | By | Category: Medicine

Vytorin Ad

In the past few months, I bet you’ve seen at least one ad like these. When I first saw these ads, I was impressed.

Most direct-to-consumer drug advertising is loathsome, filled with moronic non sequiturs–what does kayaking have to do with a nucleoside analog used to treat herpes–or simply build up anxiety about a problem, offering no explanation as to how the drug helps.

These ads, for a combination pill meant to treat high cholesterol, are actually quite clever in explaining how the drug should work–a combination of blocking cholesterol production by your liver (a gift of your parent’s genes) and blocking the absorption of cholesterol you eat.

Memorable, clear, informative; too bad the drug doesn’t work.

The results of our study showed that the addition of ezetimibe to the highest recommended dose of simvastatin did not reduce the intima–media thickness of the carotid-artery wall in this cohort of patients with familial hypercholesterolemia, despite significant incremental reductions in levels of both LDL cholesterol and C-reactive protein. The primary outcome, the change in the mean intima–media thickness, did not differ significantly between the two study groups, nor did the secondary outcome measures.

In plain English, this combo pill didn’t stop the arteries from getting clogged with cholesterol any better than the older drug alone. In fact, the older statin drugs–available as much cheaper generics now–do a better job on what you, as a patient, would care about.

The vast majority of people exposed to these ads probably don’t know this, and will never know that the drugs didn’t work, that you’re better off with a vastly cheaper drug, that the company that makes Vytorin sat on the negative results in this study while racking up billions of dollars in sales. My suspicion is that many people will continue to ‘ask your doctor about Vytorin,’ as the ad suggests. And this is why even exemplary direct-to-consumer drug advertising is so damn irritating.

7 comments
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  1. Hi Science!

    I agree that drug advertising is incredibly annoying.

    As far as this article goes, though, I wouldn’t go as far as to say that the drugs “don’t work”. What kind of an endpoint is mean intima-media thickness of the carotid artery? Why do I care about that clinically? I don’t. Show me some numbers with real endpoints: stroke, TIA, MI.

  2. What about the next statement following the negative finding?

    The results of our study showed that the addition of ezetimibe to the highest recommended dose of simvastatin did not reduce the intima–media thickness of the carotid-artery wall in this cohort of patients with familial hypercholesterolemia, despite significant incremental reductions in levels of both LDL cholesterol and C-reactive protein.

    Have the OTHER drugs shown this effect? To my knowledge, carotid artery thickness is not the standard endpoint for hyperlipidemia drugs.

    I think your point that Vytorin is no better, and maybe not as good as the older generic drugs IS spot-on. But it is also good to remember that those older drugs have the benefit of long-term studies like Eiko suggests. Vytorin smells like a marketing gimmick, but I would be more comfortable with a softer critique, since there is plenty we do not know yet about ezetimibe.

  3. […] At the shallowest depths are the most obvious additions to costs, the vast sums of money spent on marketing to consumers and doctors alike. Next down are the costly FDA trials, phase I, II and III that must be completed […]

  4. a good drug would reduce intima media that is already more than normal thick. if u carefully read the study, the study population had normal thick i.m. it is more like saying, that a fever pill did not reduce temperature, and hiding the fact that it was given to a person who was not having any fever…

  5. Alright, so I’m certainly no expert but agree 100% that big pharma advertising is extremely irritating and in my mind they’re all Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde like in their approach to truth not to mention the fact that they’re spending more on advertising than they do on research while also doing their utmost to block generic alternatives whenever they can, often with the FDA being more or less taken for a ride when it comes to argumentation.

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  7. […] Yesterday I got a phone call from said doctor with my test results. He must not have looked at my chart, or else he didn’t make any notes on my last visit, because he said my “bad” cholesterol levels were way too high and he recommended doubling my dosage of Zocor or changing it to Vytorin. Yes, Vytorin. Not only is he a closed-minded fool, he doesn’t even watch the news… (Vytorin Doesn’t Work ) […]

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