Full speed ahead for Vytorin II at Merck, Schering

The disastrous results of the recent Vytorin study have apparently done nothing to blunt the appetites of Merck and Schering-Plough for a follow-up therapy that is designed to work--or not work--in much the same way. Spokesmen for both companies tell Dow Jones that it is full speed ahead for a program to develop a similar cholesterol pill that combines Vytorin and a generic Lipitor as they looks to expand their command of the $32 billion market for cholesterol drugs.

Researchers released data earlier this week showing that Vytorin failed to perform better at reducing the rate of artery clogging than a generic statin, even though the drug reduced greater levels of bad cholesterol. Scientists at the Big Pharma companies are planning to complete studies on a Zetia-atorvastatin (Lipitor) combo so they can begin marketing it when the blockbuster Lipitor loses patent protection in 2010. AstraZeneca and Abbott are also both working away at a new combo cholesterol pill.

- here's the Dow Jones report

ALSO: Day three of chatter about Vytorin's poor performance in the ENHANCE study, and the furor seems to be increasing. Report