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Still more on the Vytorin, Zetia fallout

As the Vytorin-Zetia story continues to pick up traction in the mainstream media and on the Web, it looks like the drug makers, Merck and Schering-Plough, are in full damage-control mode. In what’s probably a smart move, the AP reports the pharma companies pulled their highly successful ads for Vytorin. Merck and Schering-Plough also bought a TWO page ad in Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal that stood by Vytorin’s cholesterol-reducing ability.

Matt Herper’s story, “The Vytorin Consensus,” in Forbes is a nice wrap up of the rough week for Merck/Schering-Plough.

A quick recap: A long-delayed clinical trail failed to prove that adding Zetia to the generic Zocor reduced artery plaque better than Zocor alone. Vytorin is a combo pill of Zetia and Zocor, with sales of $5 billion annually. Since results were released last Monday, Merck shares have dropped 10% and Schering’s stock has plunged 20%, hitting a new 52-week low. Already, following coverage by Forbes and other media organizations, the Committee on Energy and Commerce was investigating the companies for not analyzing the results sooner.

All of this publicity is also putting a spotlight on the role of pharmaceutical companies in influencing drug research. The WSJ wrote about it today but if you don’t have a WSJ subscription, you can find a recap on NewsInferno.com.

John Mack at the Pharma Marketing Blog gives his take on the Vytorin commericals. He figures the drug companies will have to let some time pass before they come back with a completely revamped branding campaign.

I agree with him that the people as food commercials are never coming back. The question is whether Vytorin, itself, can weather the tempest its makers have brought upon themselves.