Sign in front of Merck offices in Lansdale, Penn.
Sign in front of Merck offices in Lansdale, Penn. - 
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Bill Radke:A new study is raising more questions about Merck's cholesterol drugs. The results were presented yesterday at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association. Marketplace's Jennifer Collins reports.

Jennifer Collins: The study compared Merck drug Zetia to another drug, Niaspan. That's made by rival Abbott Laboratories, and Abbott sponsored this study.

Researchers found that Zetia didn't shrink the plaque in some arteries as much as Niaspan did. Zetia users may also have suffered more heart attacks. That may not exactly prompt you to:

ZETIA AD: Ask your doctor if Zetia's right for you.

And may make you more likely to ask for Niaspan. Analyst Les Funtleyder of Miller Tabak says that's exactly what the study was designed to do:

LES FUNTLEYDER: It sort of is a marketing study. You want to prove your drug is better than the other drug.

Trouble is, this is yet another in a string of unfavorable results for Zetia. Prescription rates of the drug have already fallen more than 20 percent.

Funtleyder: The question is how much worse it gets.

Experts also say the study is too small to draw firm conclusions. Larger studies are in the works, but results won't be known for several years.

I'm Jennifer Collins for Marketplace.