Esperion Therapeutics (ESPR) cleared a key hurdle in its quest to drive a wedge into the market for cardiovascular drugs, establishing that its drug lowered bad cholesterol in a large trial. But more patients taking the drug died than those getting placebo, raising questions about whether Esperion’s therapy will prove safe enough to win approval.

In a study on more than 2,200 patients already taking statins, Esperion’s drug cut bad cholesterol 20 percent better than placebo over 12 weeks, the company said. Over the course of a year, the drug outperformed placebo by 16 percent, according to the company.

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