Fresh doubts have been cast on the effectiveness of Zetia, a cholesterol drug produced by US pharmaceuticals giant Merck in a new study.
Ezetimibe, marketed as Zetia and supposed to target "bad cholesterol" (LDL) was less effective in reducing deposits in the carotid arteries than niacin, sold as Niaspan, which boosts "good cholesterol", the research found.
The results of the clinical testing, dubbed "Abriter" and carried out on 208 patients treated over 14 months, were published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) and unveiled at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association which opened in Orlando on Sunday.
A 2008 study on Vytorin, which combined a statin made by Merck with Zetia -- made at the time by Schering-Plough -- had already called into question the effectiveness of Vytorin and Zetia in the efficient treatment of heart disease.
While the number of patients studied was small, the study released Sunday could end up encouraging doctors to favor Niaspan over Zetia.