Pharmaceutical Astrazeneca's Crestor test backfires

Drugmaker AstraZeneca PLC's big gamble, an attempt to prove its top-selling drug works better than rival cholesterol blockbuster Lipitor, appears to have backfired.

A study meant to show AstraZeneca's cholesterol drug Crestor prevents plaque buildup in heart arteries better than Pfizer Inc.'s Lipitor showed no clear advantage for Crestor.

Two generic versions of Lipitor, the world's top-selling drug for several years, are expected to hit the U.S. market on Nov. 30. Analysts wrote Friday that the study result will make it hard for the British drugmaker to argue patients would fare better on its Crestor than on much-cheaper generic versions of Lipitor.

"The fact that this (AstraZeneca)-funded trial failed to definitively show a benefit in favor of Crestor will add to the negative pressure that Crestor is already destined to face from the imminent launch of generic Lipitor," Bernstein Research analyst Dr. Tim Anderson wrote in a report to investors. "Payers will be able to say that (AstraZeneca) itself has shown in a true head-to-head study, Crestor and Lipitor do about the same thing."

Anderson noted prior studies showing Crestor's benefit only tested it alone or compared it to a dummy pill, rather than another cholesterol medicine.

Jefferies & Co. analyst Jeffrey Holford wrote that the data didn't provide a clear positive result that AstraZeneca could have used to continue arguing Crestor is superior to Lipitor.

Still, he wrote, the positive trend and statistical significance achieved on the secondary goal wasn't a clear negative for Crestor. Holford added that the arrival of generic Lipitor will likely continue Crestor's trend of slow U.S. prescription growth.

Published: Tue, Sep 6, 2011

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