Merck stands by its CETP inhibitor for heart disease even as others flop
- Despite failures by Pfizer, Roche, and Eli Lilly, Merck continues to have faith in its CETP inhibitor anacetrapib.
- Anacetrapib is intended to decrease the risk of heart attacks and stroke by boosting HDL-C via CETP inhibition.
- Merck has a 30,000-patient clinical trial underway for anacetrapib and plans to continue the trial. Interim data should be available via a futility analysis ahead of the end of the study in 2017.
In the mid-2000s, the CETP hypothesis garnered significant interest. The risk of cardiovascular (CV) events can be decreased primarily by either raising HDL-C or lowering LDL-C. While there are numerous medications that lower LDL-C, significantly raising HDL-C has not yet been achieved pharmacologically.
With this goal in mind, several companies jumped in and invested aggressively. But then setbacks began to emerge. First, Pfizer's torcetrapib failed in phase 2 in 2006, followed by the failure of Roche's dalcetrapib in 2011, and Eli Lilly's evacetrapib just a few months ago.
While its easy to dismiss the CETP hypothesis entirely, all molecules from the same class are not uniform. Merck's researchers probably see potential for anacetrapib to emerge as a first-in-class, FDA-approved CETP inhibitor by the end of the decade. Otherwise, the case against CETP will grow stronger.