"Welcome to the club." -- Imaginary text message from Merck (NYSE: MRK) CEO Richard Clark to Abbott Labs (NYSE: ABT) CEO Miles White yesterday.

Like Merck's Zetia, Abbott's TriCor has been used by many patients, but neither drug has really been shown to do anything other than improve blood tests. That was good enough for approval, but without positive clinical outcomes, many doctors won't be interested in continuing to use them.

Zetia lowers bad cholesterol levels, but a study published a few years ago showed that it didn't have a positive effect on plaque buildup in a neck artery. Merck is still holding out hope that Zetia will show a positive effect on heart problems, but the results from that trial won't be available until 2013.

TriCor works differently by lowering fat triglycerides and raising good cholesterol, but the results were the same -- even worse in fact. Data presented at the American College of Cardiology (ACC) meeting yesterday said that TriCor doesn't provide additional protection from heart problems like heart attacks and strokes compared to placebo in people with diabetes.

Statins like Pfizer's (NYSE: PFE) Lipitor and AstraZeneca's (NYSE: AZN) Crestor are the clear winners here. Many patients taking TriCor and Zetia are already on a statin, but some may be on generic versions of Bristol-Myers Squibb's (NYSE: BMY) Pravachol or Merck's Zocor. Lipitor and Crestor are generally considered better statins, so if doctors cut out TriCor and Zetia, they may switch patients to better-working, more-expensive statins.

Not a win-or-go-home tournament
Fortunately for Abbott, the ACC meeting wasn't a complete disaster. The company presented positive data on its new experimental heart valve device, MitraClip, which it got in the acquisition of Evalve. The device was proven safer than open heart surgery at treating damaged heart valves.

Abbott also presented data for its new vascular stent that can be absorbed by the body. Current stents from Abbott, Boston Scientific (NYSE: BSX), Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ), and others are mesh wire that can cause clogging as the body reacts to the foreign object.

These up-and-coming products should help soften the blow from the TriCor trial, which is sure to result in some lost sales.

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Fool contributor Brian Orelli, Ph.D., doesn't own shares of any company mentioned in this article. The Fool has a disclosure policy.