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WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J. - Zocor, the cholesterol-lowering drug from Merck & Co. based here has been approved for over-the-counter use in the United Kingdom, allowing British consumers to buy it without a prescription. According to reports, industry experts believe that may set the stage for Zocor eventually being sold over-the-counter in the United States.
Four years ago the U.S. Food and Drug Administration rejected bids from Merck and Bristol-Myers Squibb to allow their respective Mevacor and Pravachol to be sold over-the-counter, citing safety concerns, but the move by the U.K. is expected to reopen the debate.
Analysts believe Merck will push to have Zocor switched to OTC status in the U.S. because such a move will allow Merck to extend the drug's life. Zocor reportedly loses its U.S. patent protection in 2006, at which time generic versions are expected to flood the market.