Pfizer's test lipid drug disappoints

March 26, 2007 at 1:24 PM

NEW ORLEANS, March 26 (UPI) -- While it seems to raise "good" cholesterol, Pfizer's test drug torcetrapib failed to slow heart disease, U.S researchers said Monday.

Moreover, data from a separate study showed the drug appears to carry a risk of raising blood pressure.

In the ILLUSTRATE study of more than 1,000 patients with coronary artery disease, the drug appeared to raise HDL cholesterol by more than 60 percent, yet did not slow the progression of plaque buildup in the coronary arteries as measured by ultrasound, said researchers from the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio at the American College of Cardiology's 56th Annual Scientific Session in New Orleans.

"We found that the torcetrabip/atorvastatin combination markedly increased good cholesterol levels and lowered bad cholesterol in patients. Unfortunately this drug also substantially raised blood pressure and failed to slow the buildup of plaque," said Steven Nissen, a cardiologist with the Cleveland Clinic. "It is yet to be determined if this failure represents a problem unique to torcetrapib or predicts a lack of efficacy for the entire class of similar drugs."

Pfizer's study -- halted Dec. 2 -- had been part of new efforts to find a therapy that not only lowers LDL, or "bad" cholesterol, but also raises "good" cholesterol, since statins to lower LDL cholesterol have still left patients vulnerable to heart attacks, stroke or sudden cardiac death, Pfizer said.

The disappointing news about Pfizer's investigational treatment does not bode well for other companies developing similar drugs in that class, including Merck and Roche.

Pfizer stopped its study of 1,188 coronary artery disease patients after a safety board monitoring a separate trial found that torcetrapib increased the risk of death and other adverse cardiovascular outcomes. Patients ware receiving either 60 mg of torcetrapib or placebo for two years.

The study is published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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