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Cholesterol drug withdrawal

According to the FierceBiotech pharma newsletter, Pfizer has been forced to halt development of its cholesterol drug Torcetrapib. The report says that the Data Safety Monitoring Board recommended the withdrawal of the drug from trials because of an “imbalance of mortality and cardiovascular events”.

I presume that’s management speak for “too many patients were having heart attacks and dying”.

The drug was set to become a Pfizer blockbuster, although I’d have hoped the marketing people would have come up with a snappier name before it went to market. “Based on all the evidence we have seen regarding Torcetrapib and in light of prior study results, we were very surprised by the information received from the DSMB,” the company stated. The DSMB has privileged access to the blind trials information so that it can make such decisions in the public and patient interest, but Pfizer claims the announcement was “totally unexpected and disappointing”.

The drug was set to replace Lipitor, a $12b a year blockbuster the patent on which is soon to expire. The FB newsletter says, that Pfizer “continue to invest in a wide range of pipeline opportunities across a diverse range of therapeutic areas.” Which, I presume, is management speak for “back to the drawing board”.

Apparently, just two days before this withdrawal, the company was enthusing about its benefits? Should we be policing drug trials even more stringently than we are now to prevent products getting so far before it is discovered there are serious issues with a particular trial?

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