WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J. -- Drugmaker Merck & Co. is recalling a combination cholesterol drug, wiping out the entire U.S. stock, due to packaging defects that could reduce effectiveness.
Merck says the recall covers all four dose strengths and every batch distributed since Liptruzet was launched last May.
Both active ingredients in the drug remain available
Merck, the world's third-biggest drugmaker, said some of the
foil pouches holding the pills may allow air and moisture inside. The company
said there's a remote chance that could decrease the drug's effectiveness or
otherwise change its properties, but that the recall is not due to any reports
of patients being harmed.
Liptruzet combines two popular drugs that work in complementary
ways to reduce levels of LDL, or bad cholesterol, a common strategy for
preventing heart attacks and strokes.
One is Merck's own Zetia, known chemically as ezetimibe, which
decreases the amount of cholesterol absorbed from food. The other ingredient,
atorvastatin, lowers the body's natural production of cholesterol.
Atorvastatin is the generic version of Lipitor, the
cholesterol pill made by Pfizer Inc. that was the world's top-selling drug for
nearly a decade until it got generic competition two years ago.
Merck continues to sell Zetia, and several companies sell
inexpensive atorvastatin. Liptruzet costs more than $5.50 per pill, about the
same as Zetia, while atorvastatin costs about 25 cents a pill.
The company, based in Whitehouse Station, N.J., said
patients can continue taking any Liptruzet they have and should consult a
doctor before stopping it. Merck plans to get Liptruzet back on the market as
soon as possible.