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FDA Approves Zocor To Raise HDL

August 9, 1999

NEW YORK (AP) _ Merck’s cholesterol-lowering drug Zocor won federal approval Monday to boast that it can also increase HDL, or ``good″ cholesterol levels.

About 10.6 million of the 98 million Americans with high total cholesterol level, have too low a HDL cholesterol level, according to Merck & Co.

Promoting the HDL benefit of Zocor should have little effect on the drug’s fight to maintain market share against Lipitor, the leading U.S. cholesterol drug that is jointly sold by Warner-Lambert Co. and Pfizer Inc.

But analysts say the new use of Zocor won’t mean a big boost in sales for the drug because many doctors already know about the studies that show Zocor’s HDL-raising ability.

Zocor still would be given only to people with high levels of LDL, or ``bad″ cholesterol. The drug would not be available for people who wanted to raise HDL levels, if they have normal overall cholesterol readings.

Lipitor controls about 41 percent of the U.S. cholesterol drug market, about twice the level of Zocor, based on the amount of new prescription orders.

Lipitor increasingly dominates the market because doctors see it as the most potent drug available.

The FDA approval will allow Merck to use the claim in its physician and consumer advertising.

``This is really an incremental step for Merck,″ said Alex Zisson, an analyst with Hambrecht & Quist. But he added, ``Any traction Merck can get to go against Lipitor will be helpful.″

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