Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

Drug makers Merck & Co. and Schering-Plough Corp. have suspended TV ads for Vytorin, a week after a study revealed the cholesterol drug is no more effective than a high dose of one of its components available generically at a third of the cost, the Associated Press and Reuters reported.

Vytorin is a combination of Zetia and Merck's Zocor, which lost patent protection in 2006. Ads have also been pulled for Zetia.

The study of 720 patients was meant to show how well Vytorin reduced plaque buildup in neck arteries in people whose genes gave them stratospheric cholesterol. Instead, it showed $100-a-month Vytorin was no more effective and perhaps a bit worse than Zocor alone, which is now sold as a generic.

Millions of people take statins to lower cholesterol in the hope of preventing heart attack or stroke. The drugs work by cutting the amount of cholesterol made by the liver.

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