Risky Merck cholesterol program shows mid-stage promise

One of Merck's new heart drugs continued to do good work in the eight weeks following treatment in a mid-stage study--cutting bad cholesterol levels while boosting levels of good cholesterol. That's encouraging news for Merck's anacetrapib program, which is following a pathway that has proved highly treacherous for others in the field.

Anacetrapib is a CETP inhibitor, as was Pfizer's notorious torcetrapib, which failed spectacularly in one of the most expensive R&D pratfalls in biopharma history. But Merck researchers say they have sound reason to believe that their drug can be steered to an eventual approval. And they've decided to use a 100 milligram dose in a late-stage trial.

"The (anacetrapib) data looks very good thus far and there's no suggestions of the kinds of toxicity that were seen with torcetrapib at this point," Yale Mitchel, Merck's vice president for cardiovascular research, told Reuters. Merck released the data at this week's AHA gathering in Orlando.

- check out the report from Reuters