Merck & Co., Inc. CEO Says Jury Out on Raising Good Cholesterol

Published: Jan 24, 2013

The jury is still out on the benefits of increasing "good" HDL cholesterol, but the strategy remains worth pursuing, despite recent setbacks, the chief executive of said on Thursday. Confidence in the HDL thesis suffered a fresh blow last month when a major clinical trial of Merck's Tredaptive medicine failed. That followed earlier failures with two other HDL-boosting drugs from Pfizer and Roche. The Pfizer and Roche drugs worked differently to Tredaptive, by inhibiting a protein called CETP, and Merck is also developing a key experimental product in this area. Merck CEO Ken Frazier, speaking in Davos on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum, said the U.S. drugmaker would continue to press ahead with clinical research on HDL raising, even though the scientific case so far remained inconclusive. "The Tredaptive failure is another piece of evidence on the side of the scale that says HDL raising hasn't yet been proven," he said. "I don't think by any means, though, that the question of HDL raising as a positive factor in cardiovascular health has been settled." Tredaptive, which is now being taken off the market in those countries where it was sold, combined an extended release form of niacin, to raise HDL, with a drug to cut the incidence of facial flushing that is a side effect of niacin therapy.

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