Merck ($MRK) cites "jaw dropping" data on cholesterol blockbuster contender

Merck ($MRK) scored a coup at the American Heart Association meeting as it unveiled an impressive set of pivotal data on its closely-watched cholesterol drug anacetrapib. Widely billed as a potential blockbuster, investigators in charge of the trial cited "jaw dropping" results, with a striking 138 percent increase in good cholesterol and a 40 percent drop in bad cholesterol among patients already taking statins.

"The lipid effects are jaw dropping in both directions," declared Dr. Christopher Cannon, the study's lead investigator from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. Just as importantly, researchers said that there were no serious side effects recorded during the 18-month trial, with fewer patients in the anacetrapib arm experiencing serious heart problems than those in the placebo group.

Merck is anxiously trying to avoid the catastrophic failure Pfizer ($PFE) experienced with torcetrapib, another CETP inhibitor. Four years ago Pfizer had to halt its pivotal study after finding that the drug arm was experiencing a higher death rate.

Said Cannon: "We are 94 percent confident that anacetrapib doesn't have the clinical (side) effects of torcetrapib." Anacetrapib still has a long way to go. The drug probably won't make it to the FDA before 2015 as Merck goes on to rack up a set of data on the therapy's heart attacks and heart disease.

- read the story from Reuters
- and here's the New York Times piece