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Merck warns docs about cholesterol pill

Drugmaker Merck & Co. is suspending its sale of the cholesterol drug Tredaptive after initial results from a study showed that it wasn't effective and could raise the risk of some serious side effects.

The Whitehouse Station, N.J., company said Friday it is telling doctors to quit prescribing the tablets, which are not approved in the United States, and it also is advising patients to stop taking the medication only after talking to a physician.The drug is sold in about 40 countries, including Europe. A company spokeswoman said Friday it will take a few months to implement the suspension worldwide.

Results also showed that patients taking the cholesterol combination pill were more likely to suffer some serious, non-fatal adverse events that fall into several broad categories: blood and lymphatic, gastrointestinal, infections, metabolism, musculoskeletal, respiratory and skin. The company said researchers are still analyzing the adverse events, and it offered no additional details.

Statins are a class of drugs that have long been used to lower levels of LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol and slightly raise levels of HDL, or “good,” cholesterol in the blood. Tredaptive is a combination pill made up of niacin, which boosts good cholesterol, and laropiprant, which reduces the facial flushing caused by niacin.

Shares of Merck rose 32 cents to $43.10 in late morning trading Friday. They have traded in a 52-week range of $36.91 to $48.
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