The Food and Drug Administration recently approved a new cholesterol-lowering medication called Liptruzet. This drug combines two already existing medications. The first, Zetia, goes by the generic name ezetimibe and works by blocking the absorption of cholesterol from the gut. The second drug, Lipitor, goes by the generic name atorvastatin and works by preventing an enzyme in the liver from creating low density lipids (LDL). Zetia is manufactured by Merck and Lipitor is manufactured by Pfizer.
The goal of combining these two medications is to provide patients with greater cholesterol lowering capabilities than either drug could provide on its own. Liptruzet is similar to another combination drug already on the market called Vytorin, which combines Zetia with Zocor.
Despite its overall objective, Vytorin has faced criticism in the field of cardiology. While its ability to lower LDL cholesterol is effective, it is not yet known if the medication actually contributes to reducing heart disease better than Zetia or Zocor could do alone.
The same questions are currently being raised about Liptruzet. Studies are underway to determine whether the benefits of combination drugs outweigh the benefits of each drug on its own. Merck’s IMPROVE-IT clinical trial, which focuses on Vytorin, is scheduled to complete in September 2014. Many experts in the cardiovascular field are anxious to see if the medication proves to be superior to stand alone statin therapy.
Lipitor, one of the two drugs in the newly approved Liptruzet, is already a controversial medication. In early 2012, the FDA required Pfizer to update the label on Lipitor to include the increased risk of type 2 diabetes among its users. Multiple studies were conducted over the past few years that have revealed similar connections to the use of Lipitor and the increased risk of type 2 diabetes. Lack of awareness of this increased risk among Lipitor users caused by the company’s failure to alert users to those risks has led to numerous Lipitor lawsuits.
Until further clinical trials are complete, the exact advantages and disadvantages of combination medications Liptruzet and Vytorin in comparison to stand alone statins will remain uncertain. Talk to your doctor if you have questions about the advantages and risks of taking a certain drug. Always consult with your physician about your specific health circumstances before making any changes to your medications.
Learn more about the FDA approval of Liptruzet here, now.