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MeritCare Heart Center Receives Many Concerned Patient Call Re Vytorin Study

Yesterday's announcement about a controversial study involving the cholesterol-lowering drug Vytorin, caused many MeritCare Heart Center patients to call with concerns. Vytorin is the combination of Zocor (a statin which blocks the formation of bad cholesterol in the liver) and Zetia (which blocks its absorption in the intestine).

Yesterday's announcement about a controversial study involving the cholesterol-lowering drug Vytorin, caused many MeritCare Heart Center patients to call with concerns. Vytorin is the combination of Zocor (a statin which blocks the formation of bad cholesterol in the liver) and Zetia (which blocks its absorption in the intestine).

While the study showed that Vytorin reduced levels of bad cholesterol (LDL), it did not reduce the buildup of plaque in the arteries in the neck. In contrast, many previous studies have proven the effectiveness of cheaper statin drugs to reduce plaque buildup.

Dr. Craig Kouba, executive partner, MeritCare Heart Center, said that it's important to understand the context of the study. It involved 720 patients, which is a small number, and more importantly, the patients involved have a unique genetic abnormality that causes them to have cholesterol levels that are two-three times greater than what is commonly considered to be high cholesterol. This condition is very unusual and does not represent the typical patient with high cholesterol. In fact, people with this abnormality make up 0.2 of the 1 percent of the general population and are extremely resistant to regular treatments.

Dr. Kouba says, "The advice that I've giving my patients that are on Vytorin or on Zocor alone is to stay the course. That being said, if patients have questions, I encourage them to talk with their doctor at their next appointment."