Vytorin Named in Another LawsuitJun 9, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP Vytorin, the controversial cholesterol-lowering drug, has been named in yet another lawsuit. According to Bloomberg.com, the Pennsylvania Employees Benefit Trust Fund (PEBTF) has filed suit against Merck & Co. and Schering-Plough, alleging that the companies charged too much for both Vytorin, and Zetia, another cholesterol drug, which is also a component of Vytorin.
Vytorin, a combination of the statin Zocor (simvastatin) and Zetia, has been under the microscope since the ENHANCE study, which found the drug was no better than a cheaper, generic statin in preventing clogged arteries, was released in January 2008. Merck and Schering-Plough delayed releasing ENHANCE for more than a year – the trial was actually completed in 2006.
The ENHANCE controversy spawned well over 100 lawsuits that allege Merck and Schering-Plough were fraudulent by withholding the study results for so long. Investigations into the ENHANCE debacle and the marketing of Vytorin are also being conducted in Congress, by the U.S. Justice Department and several state attorneys general.
According to Bloomberg, the PEBTF - an insurance fund for active and retired state employees - alleges that Merck and Schering-Plough's misleading claims about Vytorin and Zetia caused consumers to pay too much for the drugs. The lawsuit claims that the companies "suppressed" the results of ENHANCE and used false and deceptive marketing techniques claiming Vytorin was more effective than and just as safe as the much cheaper generic cholesterol drugs.
"For more than a year, Defendants have known (but have failed to make public) that their own study shows that Zetia does not reduce the fatty arterial plaques that can cause heart attack and stroke," the complaint reads. "Despite this knowledge, Defendants have touted the Zetia 'difference,' claiming that it would reduce arterial plaque. Defendants' failure to reveal that Zetia does not in fact reduce arterial plaque constitutes a deceptive practice employed by Defendants to cause physicians to prescribe, and patients to take, Vytorin or Zetia instead of the much less expensive and equally effective generic drug simvastatin."
The PEBTF lawsuit was filed June 5 in Philadelphia federal court, Bloomberg said. The PEBTF is seeking to recoup more than $9 million spent on the two drugs since October 2002.