Merck & Co. and Schering-Plough Corp. said they would pay $41.5 million to settle lawsuits alleging they delayed unfavorable study results because the results would hurt sales.
In January 2008 the drug makers, partners on two blockbuster cholesterol drugs, released long-awaited study data showing that Vytorin and Zetia were no more effective than an older, less-expensive cholesterol treatment aimed at reducing plaque buildup in arteries of people whose genes gave them sky-high cholesterol.
The study showed that $100-a-month Vytorin, which combines Zocor and Zetia, was perhaps a bit worse than Zocor alone, which is sold as a generic at a third of the price. The study also cast doubt on whether Zetia has much effect on cholesterol levels. Subsequent data have raised questions about their safety.
The companies finished the study in 2006. They released the data only after Congress began investigating the delay.