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Abbott wins OK for new cholesterol pill
Bloomberg News
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Published: 12/15/2008 5:35 PM

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Abbott Laboratories won U.S. approval to sell a new pill to lower cholesterol alone or in combination with other medicines.

The Food and Drug Administration cleared the product, called TriLipix, the Libertyville Township-based based company said today in a statement. The medicine has been shown in studies to reduce artery-clogging cholesterol and fat in patients' blood when used with blood-thinning drugs called statins, such as Pfizer Inc.'s Lipitor and Merck & Co.'s Zocor.

TriLipix works much like Abbott's TriCor, which had $1.2 billion in sales last year and faces generic competition by 2011. TriLipix, which has been compatible with statins in studies, may have annual sales of $1.9 billion, said Bruce Nudell, a UBS analyst in New York.

"Strategically they want to reduce their exposure to generics," Nudell said in a telephone interview after the announcement. "Approval was largely expected in the stock. People were beginning to get anxious because it was a little bit delayed by the FDA."

Americans spent $18.4 billion last year on cholesterol medicines, the single biggest single drug expense in the U.S., according to research company IMS Health Inc. Statins prevent a third of heart attacks and heart disease-related deaths, and combining treatments may further reduce the risks of excess cholesterol buildup, the drugmakers say.

"The approval of TriLipix is good news for patients because now there is a new treatment option that can be used alone or in combination with a statin to address lipid problems," said Michael Davidson, clinical professor and director of Preventive Cardiology at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, in the company's statement.

Abbott shares U.S. rights to market the drug with Brussels- based Solvay SA.

Abbott rose 89 cents, or 1.8 percent, to $51.64 at the close of regular trading on the New York Stock Exchange before the announcement. The shares increased 61 cents in extended trading.