AZ may cut supplies to boost returns

That Crestor patent challenge is coming home to roost. AstraZeneca hit a new 52-week low today as analysts publicly worried about possible generic competition for the cholesterol drug, which recently won a new indication for treatment of hardening of the arteries. "The key whether Crestor's prescriptions can accelerate on the back of the new atherosclerosis label," a Bear Stearns analyst wrote.

It's just the latest beating from analysts that AZ has taken in recent days. Another issue that has analyst tongues wagging: Inventory. The company may cut back its inventory to shore up returns; though drug makers like to keep 180 days' worth of meds on hand, a Citigroup analyst predicts AstraZeneca will reduce that margin to 90 days. If so, other Big Pharma companies may follow suit. Such a move would free up cash but the risk of shortages, which, of course, could be a PR disaster.

- learn about AZ's stock troubles from CNN Money
- read about the company's inventory decision