AHA backs costly cholesterol drug combo

Despite the release of a recent study suggesting that cholesterol drug combo Vytorin works no better than much-cheaper Zocor for reducing artery plaque, the American Heart Association is throwing its weight behind Vytorin. Within a day of the study's announcement, the Association came out with a statement arguing that the study was too limited to draw sufficient conclusions about Vytorin, and advised patients not to abruptly stop taking the drug.

However, the fact that the Association gets almost $2 million a year from Merck and Schering-Plough, which market Vytorin, has thrown its integrity into question, particularly given that the group didn't mention this financial relationship in the statement.

Since then, the House Energy and Commerce Committee has issued letters to the AHA, as well as the American College of Cardiology (which also takes drug money and issued a pro-Vytorin statement), asking them to speak more about their industry relationships. The House committee's inquiry is part of a larger investigation into the research and market Vytorin.

To learn more about the controversy:
- read this piece in The New York Times

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