(Adds sales forecast, background, doctor statement)
NEW YORK, Feb 15 (Reuters) - Abbott Laboratories Inc (ABT.N) on Friday said U.S. regulators have approved its Simcor pill, the company’s newest combination product to treat cholesterol.
Simcor pairs simvastatin, the active ingredient of Merck & Co’s (MRK.N) statin Zocor that lowers “bad” LDL cholesterol, with Abbott’s widely used Niaspan medicine that raises levels of “good” HDL cholesterol.
Simcor is a follow-up to Advicor, an Abbott combination product already on the market that pairs Niaspan with a less-potent statin known as lovastatin.
Abbott has said it expects sales of the new drug, which also lowers a type of blood fats called triglycerides, to eventually reach $500 million a year.
Niaspan had 2007 sales of $658 million, so Simcor should significantly boost Abbott’s cholesterol franchise.
Merck is working on a similar product that would add an anti-flushing agent to prevent the uncomfortable facial reddening that is a common side effect of niacin, the main ingredient of Niaspan. It is expected to seek approval for the medicine later this year.
Although the anti-flush agent of the Merck medicine is meant to sidestep the side effect that often keeps patients from taking niacin, some researchers fret that the new component could pose safety risks that are not yet apparent.
Abbott is conducting a long-term study of Simcor in an attempt to establish its ability to help prevent heart attacks and strokes. The results are expected in 2011.
Traditional drugs that lower bad cholesterol have been shown to cut the risk of heart attacks and strokes by about 30 percent. Researchers are hoping that by attacking bad cholesterol while also raising good cholesterol, the heart risk could be cut by 50 percent or more.
“There is a clear need for medicines that both raise good and comprehensively lower the bad components of cholesterol,” Dr Christie Ballantyne, one of the lead Simcor researchers, said in a statement. (Reporting by Ransdell Pierson and Bill Berkrot; editing by Leslie Gevirtz)