Harvard Men's Health Watch

On call: Vytorin for cholesterol

On call

Vytorin for cholesterol

Q. I don't understand the problem with Vytorin. The two components when used separately work fine, but when mixed together things change. Why?

A. Doctors have three ways to judge if a cholesterol-lowering drug "works": Does it lower LDL ("bad") cholesterol? Does it improve arteries? And — most importantly — does it reduce the risk of heart attacks and other cardiovascular events?

Vytorin contains two medications, the statin drug simvastatin (also sold separately as Zocor and generics) and a newer non-statin drug, ezetimibe (also sold separately as Zetia). In a large series of studies, simvastatin has passed all three tests. Ezetimibe lowers LDL cholesterol, but until the ENHANCE study, it hadn't been subjected to the other tests.

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