This week started out with Merck shares suffering their worst loss since the day the drugmaker recalled Vioxx and Schering-Plough shares posting their worst one-day decline ever. But yesterday, SGP had its biggest percentage gain in eight years and today it's finishing the week as the sector's biggest percentage gainer.
And MRK is the biggest dollar gainer in big pharma today. The roller-coaster ride is the result of the Vytorin/Zetia data and scathing commentary that came out at the cardiologists conference last weekend. Analysts and investors are closely watching prescriptions for both drugs in the wake of the American College of Cardiology meeting. And we should get a clearer view of where things might be headed when the companies report earnings in a couple of weeks.
My coverage of the story on the blogand on-air generated a number of emails this week. Here's a sample.
Someone who may go by the name Leyli sends in a personal endorsement of Vytorin. He or she writes:
"After taking many different statins over 20+ years without success in lowering my cholesterol, I switched to Vytorin two years ago. It produced the best results ever, amazingly low LDL (bad cholesterol)."
Indeed, the study in question showed that Vytorin (a combo of Zocor and Zetia) lowered bad cholesterol, triglycerides and a marker for heart attack risk more than Zocor alone.
Mark Zullo thinks I've been:
"painting an extremely optimistic view of the diffculties Merck and SP ae facing in the wake of this clinical release. Just spend one day in the field with any of their cardiovascular reps and you would understand the 90 degree climb they now face!"
An anonymous reader says:
"Thank you for your coverage on this important subject." This person believes the cardiologists who've been advocating that lower bad cholesterol is better are the most culpable. "Can't blame MRK or SGP when they (the cardiology experts) established the foundation for this mess."
Karen Hensley wants to know:
"How unsafe is Vytorin?"
There is no evidence of a safety issue. The debate right now is over the extent of its efficacy. However, some doctors argue that it could ultimately be shown to be relatively unsafe because it does not appear to clear out clogged arteries and therefore, may not reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes. MRK and SGP are studying as many as 18,000 patients to determine that, but the results won't be available until 2012.
And Ron Voss asks:
"I wonder why no one at CNBC is reporting on the 100 percent proven safe heart therapy known as EECP? It was featured on CBS Morning Show a couple of weeks ago, but it is being ignored by many cardiologists. Are you all 'in bed together' on this or what?"
I'd never heard of it before, so I checked it out. I don't know why cardiologists are "ignoring" EECP, but I am not covering it because the company that appears to be behind it is a penny-stock. It's against CNBC policy to report on companies that trade over the counter for just eight cents (yes, 8 cents) a share.
By the way, SGP CEO Fred Hassan is bookending the week with exclusive TV interviews on Jim Cramer's "Mad Money." He went on the show Monday night and he'll be making on encore appearance today (Friday) at 6 pm and 11 pm ET.
Questions? Comments? Pharma@cnbc.com