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ZETIA Inhibits Cholesterol in Intestines

New class of drug limits absorption

MONDAY, Oct. 28, 2002 (HealthDayNews) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the first in a new class of drugs to fight cholesterol. Called ZETIA by joint-manufacturers Merck and Schering-Plough, it's designed to inhibit the intestinal absorption of the artery clogging substance.

The drug is meant to be taken alongside statins, drugs that inhibit cholesterol production in the liver. Sixty percent of the estimated 13 million people who take statins continue to have levels of "bad" cholesterol (LDL) that are above recommended levels, the companies report.

A 10-month study of the new drug found that people already taking statins (Lipitor or Zocor) for at least six weeks reported an average 25 percent additional reduction in LDL cholesterol, versus a 4 percent additional reduction among those who took a placebo with no medicinal value.

The study found that ZETIA combined with either statin reduced triglycerides by 29 percent to 33 percent, versus 20 percent to 24 percent with the statin alone. And so-called "good cholesterol" (HDL) rose by 7 percent to 9 percent, versus 4 percent to 7 percent with the statin alone.

The most common side effects reported were back pain and abdominal pain.

The companies say a 30-day supply will be made available to direct purchasers for $57.90. The 10 mg tablets should be available at local pharmacies within three weeks, they add.

Here is the press release announcing the drug's approval. And for more on keeping cholesterol under control, visit the FDA.

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