Analysts Downplay Vytorin Data

Vytorin costs way more than generic simvastatin and doesn’t seem to be any better at slowing the progression of heart disease, according to data released yesterday. Who cares, said a bunch of Wall Street analysts.

Even as shares of Schering-Plough, which co-markets the drug with Merck, fell 8% yesterday, and high-profile cardiologist Steve Nissen told the WSJ docs should stop using Vytorin and its sister drug Zetia as primary therapy for high cholesterol, analysts largely shrugged off the news.

The data were “in line with investor expectations,” wrote Cowen analyst Steve Scala. “We believe … the impact on Schering-Plough and Merck stocks to be minimal.”

The study looked at plaque in artery walls nd didn’t evaluate whether the drug actually reduced the risk of stroke, heart attack or death, noted Catherine Arnold of Credit Suisse. She called yesterday’s stock reaction “significantly overdone,” but did suggest that the finding could boost sales of AstraZeneca’s Crestor, which has been shown to slow the progression of heart disease.

And Sanford Bernstein’s Tim Anderson suggested that “[i]n isolation, the results probably would have led to a share price rise … but largely due to negative comments from prominent cardiologist Steve Nissen, share prices declined … All industry experts we corresponded with, however, felt that description of the results was overly dramatic.”

To wit, a Forbes.com piece has Nissen leading off with: “This drug doesn’t work. Period. It just doesn’t work.” Others were a bit more confused and circumspect: “It certainly throws a monkey wrench into this whole field,” Prediman K. Shah, director of cardiology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, told Forbes. Last week Shah told investors on a Morgan Stanley call that he expected that the Enhance study was ?more likely than not? to show a benefit.

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