Competitor drugs Crestor and Lipitor were both found to safely reduce artery-clogging plaque in heart patients, but Lipitor is likely to remain the top-seller, suggests findings presented at the American Heart Association's annual meeting in Orlando.
Pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca sought to differentiate its Crestor from Pfizer Inc.'s Lipitor -- cheaper generic versions of which are due to become available in December. Crestor did manage to slightly outperform Lipitor in several tests, but the differences were not found to be statistically significant.
The two-year study included over 1,000 heart patients who were given the highest dosages of the drugs: 80 mg of Lipitor or 40 mg of Crestor. The rate of heart attack and strokes was 7.5 percent for the patients taking Crestor, and 7.1 percent for those taking Lipitor. Plaque buildup was reduced by 1.22 percent (Crestor) and 0.99 percent (Lipitor). "Good" HDL cholesterol is recommended to be at 40 or higher - it was raised to 50.4
(Crestor) and 48.6 (Lipitor). LDL, on the other hand, which should be 100 or lower, was reduced to 62.6 (Crestor) and 70.2 (Lipitor).
"The differences between the two drugs were modest," said Dr. Stephen Nicholls, the primary researcher.
"What this study shows is that you can actually reverse the buildup of plaque in a majority of patients with coronary disease if you treat them very intensively with either of these two powerful drugs," said Dr. Nissen, chief of cardiology at the Cleveland Clinic and the study's chairman.