Study lifts cloud over cholesterol drugs Zetia, Vytorin; finds they can lower heart risks

Drugmaker Merck & Co. says its cholesterol-lowering medicine ezetimibe (uh-ZETT-uh-mibe) met its main goal in a study testing whether adding it to an older type of cholesterol medicine could reduce heart risks. The drug is sold as Zetia (ZETT-ee-uh) and in combination with the statin drug Zocor as Vytorin (veye-TOR-in).

Zetia and Vytorin have racked up billions of dollars in sales over more than a decade without evidence they help prevent heart attacks and strokes. The study of 18,000 people tested Vytorin versus a statin alone in people who had recently had a heart attack or worsening chest pain from a severely blocked artery.

Full results are to be released later Monday at an American Heart Association conference in Chicago.