Abbott lifts curtain on cholesterol-cutter
Experimental drug Simcor could be next entry to $20B cholesterol market.
ORLANDO (CNNMoney.com) -- Abbott Laboratories unveiled significant test results Sunday for an experimental cholesterol treatment that could go on sale as soon as next year.
Abbott (Charts, Fortune 500) reported that Simcor, a combination of two drugs, effectively lowered harmful types of cholesterol, while raising beneficial types of cholesterol. The drug company, based near Chicago, revealed its findings at the annual conference of the American Heart Association.
In interviews last week, prior to Abbott's release of its drug study, analysts said its sales potential was uncertain.
"It really depends on how much marketing effort the company's going to put behind it," said Michael Krensavage, analyst for Raymond James & Associates.
Simcor is a combination of Niaspan, an extended-release version of niacin (a form of vitamin B) and simvastatin, a generic version of Merck & Co Inc.'s (Charts, Fortune 500) Zocor, which lost patent protection in 2006. The experimental combo has already been submitted to the Food and Drug Administration. If the agency approves it, Simcor could enter the U.S. market in 2008.
In a late-stage, 24-week study involving 600 patients, Simcor lowered harmful types of cholesterol by 14 percent in the low-dose group, and 23 percent in the high-dose group, according to Abbott. The patients who took only simvastatin lowered harmful cholesterol by 7 percent.
Also, patients taking the low dose of Simcor experienced an 18 percent increase in a beneficial type of cholesterol known as HDL (high density lipoprotein), and high-dose patients experienced an increase of 25 percent. HDL increased by 7 percent in those who took only simvastatin, said Abbott.
"At the end of the day, this is a product that physicians are looking for," said Dr. Jim Stolzenbach, Abbott's strategic leader for clinical trials. "I think we've got a very good product that should be very successful."
The AHA conference is expected to feature product and research announcements by several major pharmaceutical companies. Among the most anticipated is one by Eli Lilly & Co. (Charts, Fortune 500), which on Sunday afternoon is set to release late-stage results for its experimental anti-stroke drug prasugrel.
Lilly dropped two prasugrel studies on Oct. 24, prompting a 7 percent drop in stock, even though a company spokesman said those studies had nothing to do with the larger, more advanced study that will be announced on Sunday.