Merck’s $4.56 billion anti-cholesterol drugs no better than cheap B-vitamin

November 17th, 2009 – A widely prescribed and expensive cholesterol drug is not as effective as niacin, a cheap vitamin, in helping to unclog coronary arteries in people already taking statins, the standard medicines used to lower cholesterol, according to a new study.

The research, which appears Monday in the New England Journal of Medicine, is sending rumbles through the medical community because it is the third recent study to raise questions about the effectiveness of Zetia and its sister drug, Vytorin, highly profitable pharmaceuticals made by Merck & Co.

Introduced in 2002 and 2004 amid heavy direct-to-consumer marketing, Zetia and Vytorin became blockbusters for Merck and Schering-Plough, which had collaborated on their development. The companies recently merged.

Last year, a study released by Merck showed that Zetia did not reduce plaque in arteries compared with patients taking only statins, which are much less expensive and available in generic form. Although released in January, the study had been completed in 2006, prompting a class-action lawsuit alleging that Merck intentionally withheld unfavorable results of a clinical trial. The company paid $41.5 million in August to settle the claims.

Another study published last year showed a potential increase in cancer among patients taking Zetia and Vytorin, compared with those taking only statins.

So what does this have to do with medical marijuana? Everything. Understand that these same profit-making mega-corps of Big Pharma are desperately trying to create cannabinoid-based medicines that can’t be grown in your back yard or closet. While we rejoice that the AMA reversed its position and urged the rescheduling of cannabis, keep your mind focused on why they might have done that. Is it the pure altruism of realizing a mistake and returning to a rational scientific approach to cannabis moderated by compassion for suffering people and the benefit herbal cannabis would provide?

Or is it the realization that the people are crusading for legal marijuana and succeeding, and if herbal cannabis becomes truly legal their friends in the pharmaceutical industry lose all the profits off of cannabinoid pills, sprays, and inhalers to the ultimate “less expensive generic”?

Remember that drug companies only make money if you take drugs. If you’re not sick, you don’t take drugs, so they need to keep finding new drugs to push on you for new ailments you never knew you had. If you go about relieving your unhealthful stress with a joint after a long day, you’re not going to get those stress-related diseases for which you’ll need a lifelong regimen of drugs.

Beware the medicalization of marijuana. I can forsee a ruling where herbal cannabis is placed in Schedule II so research is then allowed to take place. At Schedule II, your doctor could prescribe it to you, but since Schedule II drugs are tightly controlled (no refills, for instance) perhaps he won’t. Meanwhile, Big Pharma identifies and synthesizes the medically-effective compounds in cannabis (taking out the pesky “high”, of course) and these expensive drugs are packaged and mega-hyped on TV. These drugs are placed, like Marinol, at Schedule III or lower. With effective alternatives to herbal cannabis found (and lobbying pressure from Big Pharma looking to protect their investments), states have no reason to begin or continue their herbal cannabis programs.

Next thing you know, the “medical marijuana era” is a relic of the history books, “crude” marijuana is rejected, and those who grow it are busted just like now (remember, possession and manufacture of an unauthorized Schedule II substance can get you in as much trouble as Schedule I.) By: Radical Russ. Source.

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