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Warning: Vytorin May Not Protect Your Heart

Do you suffer from high cholesterol? Perhaps you’ve tried a number of ways to reduce your cholesterol levels, such as changing your diet and getting more exercise. Your doctor may have even prescribed a medication to help in your cholesterol-lowering efforts – especially if diet and exercise alone weren’t working for you. If you do take a prescription medicine, and you happen to take one called Vytorin, you’ll want to keep reading. And you might want to think twice about taking that medication, as it has become the center of attention recently in regards to what it can actually do for your heart health.

Let’s take a look at all the details . . .

The Study
On Sunday, March 30, 2008, the full results of the trial called Enhance were presented at an American College of Cardiology conference in Chicago and also online in the New England Journal of Medicine.  These are the results from an earlier, preliminary study that showed Vytorin did not work as it was originally supposed to. Vytorin’s advertisements claim to help block absorption of cholesterol from food and reduce the cholesterol that your body makes.

Merck & Co. Inc. and Zetia (manufactured by Schering-Plough Corp) conducted a study of Vytorin.   Although there was limited proof of the benefit of this drug for heart disease protection, the drug was closely watched because it was prescribed to millions of people and brought in sales of close to $5 billion.

Vytorin is made up of the generic statin Zocor and Zetia (lipid reducer).  Vytorin came out in 2004 and Zetia came out in 2002.

Both of them alone would lower cholesterol.  This is why it was thought that this drug could also help prevent heart disease, as cholesterol is a factor in heart disease.  Although this drug does help to lower “bad” cholesterol, it did not reduce the plaque buildup that was tested on 720 high-risk patients.

It is actually being recommended that patients check with their doctors and ask about going back to traditional statins such as Merck’s Zocor because it has been proven to lower cholesterol and help prevent heart disease.  And, not only that, Zocor costs about $1 for a generic pill, while Vytorin costs about $3 a pill.  This is a huge difference in price and effectiveness. 

Since the final results came out, many cardiologists are having second thoughts about prescribing Vytorin.  Some have said they will go back to the statin Crestor, as it has been proven over and over again to work in helping to prevent heart disease.

It should be mentioned that the study was not conducted to test the safety of Vytorin.  At this point in time, Vytorin does not show issues for safety.  However, these results are not confirmed.

Final results of the Enhance trial are a worry for Orville Crook, 68, of Chesapeake, VA. The retired supermarket executive takes Vytorin now, but he was on Zocor and Zetia together for years. He questioned this issue with his doctor after hearing preliminary reports that Vytorin might not work for heart disease prevention.

These results are troubling to many patients that have switched over to Vytorin after years of using traditional statins.  Many patients who take Vytorin have already had issues with their heart and are obviously very conscious of their heart health.  You know how hard you try to do the best with your health, and I’m sure it is frustrating when you think you are doing the right thing, only to find out you were doing what was best for your health to begin with, and now your health is at risk. 

For Orville Crook, this is especially upsetting as he had a heart attack in 1997 and an operation to clear his blocked artery.   When the preliminary results came out in January, he was concerned.  When the final results came out in March, he was very worried. 

"I called my cardiologist and he said 'Hold with Vytorin’" Crook said. "Now that the study's out, he's talking with other people and we're going to decide what to do. I have an appointment April 11. I guess we'll find out then."

Many are concerned about this study.  Anyone on this drug should contact their doctor for further instructions on what to do.  Most importantly, do not quit taking any medication without consulting your doctor first.

On an alternative approach, there are companies that have developed natural solutions for cardiovascular health.  There are a number of natural ingredients that when combined can create a complete heart health regimen for your cardiovascular needs. 

If you are interested in using natural treatment options, consider Vitamin B, Vitamin C, Carnitine, Chromium, Coenzyme Q10, Fiber or Soy supplements, red yeast rice extract (an enzyme-blocker that removes LDL from the blood) and fish oil, which may lower LDL and raise HDL levels. And if you’re not afraid of a little bad breath, Garlic is also believed to have a positive effect on reducing cholesterol.

Your health is obviously extremely important, and while this study doesn’t seem to bring about any harmful health effects of Vytorin, you may not be getting the best bang for your buck when it comes to this drug. Talk to your doctor about all your options – there might be something better just waiting for you!

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