The drug maker Merck announced Thursday that a combination of niacin and another medicine failed to protect against heart attacks and strokes in a large clinical trial, and that the company will no longer pursue approval of the combination drug in the United States.
The trial, which followed more than 25,000 patients over four years, also found a statistically significant increase in the number of patients who suffered serious harms, although the company said those adverse events weren’t fatal. The patients studied were all taking statins, a class of drugs commonly used to lower bad cholesterol.
Merck’s drug, called Tredaptive, combined an extended-release version of niacin with laropiprant, a medicine intended to reduce facial flushing in patients, one of the drug’s more inconvenient side effects. Tredaptive is sold in about 40 countries, including some in Europe, but it failed in 2008 to win U.S. approval.
In a statement, Merck said it was recommending that doctors not start new patients on the drug.