To the Moon, Crestor?

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AstraZeneca (NYSE: AZN  ) is milking the Jupiter trial data for all it's worth. A few months ago, the company released initial data showing how its cholesterol-lowering drug, Crestor, reduced the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and other heart-related issues by 44% in patients. Now it's back for more.

At the American College of Cardiology (ACC) meeting this weekend, the company presented further data to show that the drug yielded a 43% drop in the risk of venous thromboembolism (VTE), like blood clots that can form in the leg and possibly travel to the lungs.

That sounds good … until you get to the gritty details. There were 17,802 people in the study, and only 94 got VTE -- 60 in the placebo group, and 34 that were taking Crestor. The risk and level of patients getting VTE is low enough that I'm not convinced that the data will sway too many doctors to put their patients on Crestor.

Even if doctors are convinced that Crestor's effects are worth handing the drug out like candy, it seems likely that these positive effects would also be present in other statins, the class of drugs to which Crestor belongs. Unfortunately for Crestor, Merck's (NYSE: MRK  ) Zocor and Bristol-Myers Squibb's (NYSE: BMY  ) Pravachol are both available as generics, and Pfizer's (NYSE: PFE  ) Lipitor will be relatively soon. While the others haven't been proven to save lives in this patient subpopulation, doctors may use the cheaper cost of the generic to justify the potential, however small, that these drugs might save lives.

If doctors favor statins for their extra perceived clot-preventing benefits, non-statin cholesterol drugs such as Abbott Labs' (NYSE: ABT  ) TriLipix, or Zetia from Merck and Schering-Plough (NYSE: SGP  ) could lose out. But these drugs are often prescribed in combination with statins, so the effect should be minimal.

Sales of Crestor have been doing quite well -- up 29% year over year last year -- but I doubt that Jupiter will send those figures to the moon.

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Fool contributor Brian Orelli, Ph.D., doesn't own shares of any company mentioned in this article. Pfizer is an Inside Value recommendation. The Fool has a disclosure policy.

Read/Post Comments (3) | Recommend This Article (3)

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Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On March 30, 2009, at 4:16 PM, neers87 wrote:

    Perhaps you should read the entire study rather than the broad results. In the discussion points it is noted that the frequency of venous thromboembolism among participants was consistent with that of stroke. Also consistent with population based estimates from Rochester County Minnesota which showed that the incedence of venous thromboembolism was similar to that of stroke, and from the Brest region of France which showed that the incidence of VTE was similar to that of myocardial infarction.

    100,000 people die each year from blood clots.

    As for generics, all statins basically work in similar fashion, it is a matter of how effectivly they are able to achieve the desired results. Crestor has again proven to have the most beneficial effects in addressing the complications of dyslipidemia, furthermore, no other statin has shown a relative risk reduction in all cause mortality.

  • Report this Comment On March 30, 2009, at 9:26 PM, Andrew714 wrote:

    Neers87: don't forget to ask your doctor or prescriber.

  • Report this Comment On April 01, 2009, at 12:20 AM, wht55 wrote:

    Really, neers87? No statin before Crestor to show a reduction in all cause mortality? Have you read the Heart Protection Study?

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