Zetia proven to provide cardiovascular benefit according to a new study released by Merck &Co.

Merck&Co released a new study on November 17, 2014 providing new evidence that the drug Zetia, generic name ezetimibe, reduces major cardiovascular events when used as an adjunct to statin therapy.  The new study, referred to as IMPROVE-IT, showed a 6.4% reduction in cardiovascular events when combined with simvastatin 40mg.

Zetia works to block the uptake of cholesterol from the gastrointestinal tract, whereas statin therapies prevent cholesterol production in the liver.  The true advantage of taking Zetia has been debated.  A small study released in 2008, showed that while Zetia decreased cholesterol uptake, it did not reduce the amount of plaque build-up in the carotid arteries.  As a result, Zetia showed no clinical benefit for its use and many providers stopped prescribing it.

The new trial will change the perception of Zetia’s impact.  The trial, referred to as IMPROVE-IT, followed 18,144 high-risk patients over an average of 6 years.  The patients all had a history of a heart attack, unstable angina, arrhythmias or other ischemic symptoms with an LDL cholesterol level ≤ 125 mg/dL.  The initial goal was to prove that Zetia, when used in conjunction with a statin could lower LDL cholesterol, The study showed an average LDL reduction of 23% to 24% compared to patients on a statin alone.  The IMPROVE-IT trial actually went beyond its initial goal and showed a direct correlation between low levels of LDL and cardiovascular health.  Using Zetia as a dual agent suggested that 2 out of every 100 patients treated had a significant reduction in stroke or heart attack.

The impact of the trial will change many providers approach to cholesterol therapy.  Zetia is a different type of cholesterol lowering agent and the trial provided more insight into the effects of cholesterol, LDL and their effects on the body.

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