Getting LDL -- bad cholesterol -- in check is still in favor. Three cheers for Pfizer's
Raising HDL -- good cholesterol -- with niacin doesn't seem like it's all that helpful, though. In a government-run trial dubbed AIM-HIGH, patients taking Zocor and niacin saw their good cholesterol go up by 28% compared with those taking Zocor alone, but that didn't translate into a lower rate of heart attacks, strokes, and the like. The trial was ended early because it was clear that there was no point in finishing it. Based on the data at the interim look, Niacin wasn't going to help decrease heart-related problems by a statistically significant margin.
That's bad news for Abbott Labs
This is one of the major problems with developing heart drugs. Surrogate endpoints, like cholesterol levels, are no longer sufficient, and outcomes studies require a huge number of patients because, fortunately, heart attacks and strokes are fairly rare. In order to show a 15% improvement in outcomes, tens of thousands of patients have to be enrolled.
Large pharmaceutical companies can afford to take the financial risk given the potential Lipitor-sized rewards. But investors need to be cognizant that this isn't a place for smaller companies to be playing around. I thought Biogen Idec
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Fool contributor Brian Orelli holds no position in any company mentioned. Click here to see his holdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Abbott Laboratories. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Abbott Laboratories and Pfizer. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.