Science Vytorin (Ezetimibe/simvastatin) Doesn’t Work; You Wouldn’t Know
posted by April 7 at 14:36 PMon
In the past few months, I bet you’ve seen at least one ad like this:
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 was no better at stopping the arteries from getting clogged with cholesterol. 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 companies making 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.