Merck & Co and Schering-Plough’s new combination cholesterol-lowerer has been launched in the UK.

Inegy (ezetimibe/simvastatin), known outside Europe as Vytorin, combines Merck’s top-selling lipid-lowerer Zocor (simvastatin) with the two firms’ jointly-developed Zetia (ezetimibe), and has the dual effect of inhibiting the absorption of cholesterol from the intestine and its production by the liver, giving it a considerable advantage over simple statins.

The drug was approved in Germany last year, but seems to be making the greatest impression at the moment in the USA. Launched there just under a year ago [[26/07/04a]], Vytorin is taking market share from Pfizer’s blockbuster Lipitor (atorvastatin ) and Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Pravachol (pravastatin). Furthermore, Zetia sales are also holding up but Zocor could go off-patent in a year’s time and some observers believe demand for generic simvastatin might hurt the new combination pill.

At present, Michael Krensavage, an analyst at Raymond James & Associates is impressed and told CNN that he has upped his 2005 forecasts to $1.4 billion dollars for Zetia and $958 million for Vytorin, from his original projections of $1 billion and $600 million, respectively.

Back in the UK, expectations are also high and Clive Weston, a consultant cardiologist from Singleton Hospital, Swansea, said that “clinicians may find that the dual action of Inegy helps them to conveniently and rapidly achieve optimal cholesterol levels if an appropriate trial of statin treatment has been unsuccessful.”