BusinessWeek’s Tom Randall Misses One Third Of CETP Story. No Surprise, There.


As I wrote much earlier, the main stream science media has done a marginal job — at best — of going beyond the soundbites very carefully fed them, by Merck, certain Oxford and (to a lesser extent), Harvard researchers, each affiliated with the Anacetrapib DEFINE study.

Continuing that trend overnight, Bloomberg’s BusinessWeek has a new piece out, written by Tom Randall, purporting to recite the history between Merck and Pfizer, and the $50 billion battle to lead cholesterol management medicine, over the last 15 years or so.

Randall concludes that Merck may emerge the winner — despite Pfizer’s Lipitor® decade of dominance, now coming to an end — as it goes generic next year (another fact he, and Bloomberg’s BusinessWeek fail to mention, or put in context). Randall reaches this conclusion by citing Merck’s perserverance, in continuing on with Anacetrapib — after Pfizer’s lethal study results on Torcetrapib (same class) in 2006. True enough — that was a visionary and courageous decision — in so far as it goes. But it is not all of the story — by any stretch.

Mr. Randall forgets to mention Roche. Roche’s Dalcetrapib is two years (at least!) ahead of Merck’s CETP candidate. [Not that Roche is a screaming buy here, either though — see next full paragraph.]

Merck won’t be in the US market with Anacetrapib before 2018, in all likelihood.

And, because Lipitor goes generic next year — some 20 million Americans will have been on cheap, effective generic statins for five years when Roche’s Dalcetrapib CETP inhibitor (a thus-far less effective variant on MRK’s CETP inhibitor) reaches market in 2014 to 2016. All that assumes no deadly flame out, for either candidate.

Yep, as I earlier mentioned, back in July of 2009, Roche began a 15,600 patient Phase III, multi-center efficacy/CV outcomes study on its CETP inhibitor candidate, called Dalcetrapib. Merck will take the equivalent step, with its CETP candidate, Anacetrapib, on its timeline, sometime in early 2011, in a 30,000 patient trial run by Oxford University, to be called REVEAL.

Thus, Merck is now — simply stated — a couple of years behind Roche — but Merck’s Anacetrapib is showing (at least at this stage of the game) considerably better lab results, with its CETP inhibitor candidate. Even so, both Roche and Merck will face a population — in 2018 — that has been on statins (at perhaps one-one hundredth the price) for seven to ten years, and is seeing real benefit from that course of therapy.

Net, net: I’d not bet too terribly much on the Tom Randall Bloomberg/BusinessWeek piece.

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