What cancer scare? That was the deft touch the Schering-Plough ceo had when asked on a teleconference call today with Wall Street analysts about the news that the so-called SEAS trial found an unexpectedly higher rate of cancer in Vytorin patients than those given a placebo.
Instead of mentioning the 'C' word, Fred focused on a secondary endpoint - a statistically significant 22 percent reduction in non-fatal heart attacks and coronary artery bypass surgery. Never mind that SEAS failed to meet the main goal of improving cardiovascular outcomes for patients with aortic stenosis, which is an irregular thickening of the main valve to the aorta.
"What I took away is that this study confirmed the results from other cholesterol lowering agents that reducing LDL does not reduce the rate of progression of aortic valve disease," he told analysts. "Vytorin had positive outcome data, reducing the risk of coronary artery disease in these patients."
But what about cancer? "I'll leave the interpretation of the science to the independent scientists."
Chuck Grassley, however, is having none of it. He sent yet another round of letters to Fred and his counterpart at Merck, Dick Clark, who have a joint venture to market Vytorin, because the drugmakers have yet to fully respond to earlier inquiries. The SEAS “study itself may make the situation uncertain or even more confusing. But one thing is clear and that is that the drug maker hasn’t been responsive to Congress and ought to be given the public safety and public expenditures involved with Vytorin.”