It isn't so much that investors weren't impressed with the stellar data that AstraZeneca (NYSE:AZN) presented over the weekend about its cholesterol-lowering drug, Crestor. It's just that they already knew the results from the "Jupiter" trial in relatively healthy patients were going to be great.

The trial was stopped in March, two years ahead of time, because the patients taking the drug had a clear benefit over those taking placebo. The fact that the drug reduced the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and other heart-related issues by 44% just isn't that surprising to stockholders.

AstraZeneca's stock hardly moved today. So much for the notion that the results would fuel a rocket ship headed up, up, up.

Not only were the results of the study probably priced into the stock, but some of the expected boost to sales may already have occurred as well. Crestor sales are already on fire, especially compared to most of the other cholesterol drugs.

Drug

Sold by

Sales in Most Recent Quarter (in millions)

Year-Over-Year Increase/(Decrease)

Crestor

AstraZeneca

$922

33%

Lipitor

Pfizer (NYSE:PFE)

$3,142

(1%)

Vytorin

Merck (NYSE:MRK) and Schering-Plough (NYSE:SGP)

$567

(18%)

Zetia

Merck and Schering-Plough

$534

(12%)

Niaspan

Abbott Labs (NYSE:ABT)

$194

16%

While it's done well so far, AstraZeneca faces an uphill battle to take additional market share, especially when you consider that almost half of the prescriptions written for cholesterol drugs are for generic versions of drugs like Merck's Zocor or Bristol-Myers Squibb's (NYSE:BMY) Pravachol.

Doctors who do prefer branded drugs may continue to favor Crestor, but a major boost to sales probably won't occur until AstraZeneca gets FDA approval to use the data from the Jupiter trial in its marketing campaigns. That's not likely to occur until 2010, which won't give AstraZeneca much time to differentiate itself before it has to fight with generic versions of Lipitor when they become available in 2011.

The results from Jupiter certainly aren't bad, but they're not going to send AstraZeneca, or its stock, to the moon anytime soon.

Related Foolishness, sort of:

  • Orbital Sciences actually is in space.
  • You can't get to the moon if you don't try.

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