Crestor cuts heart disease risk

Crestor did it. In an 18,000-patient trial, the AstraZeneca statin proved dramatically effective at cutting the risk of heart attack and death among patients who seemed healthy but showed high levels of C-reactive protein, or CRP. The risk of a "hard cardiac event" was less than one percent for trial patients using Crestor and 1.8 percent for those on placebo.

AstraZeneca crowed about the results Sunday at the American Heart Association's annual meeting, and the study attracted tons of attention among the media and among cardiologists, too. Published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the study is considered a boost for not only Crestor, but statins in general. Some 7 million people who aren't now taking the drugs could now be targets for statin therapy.

Jupiter is "a powerful study with important information," Sid Smith, a cardiologist at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, told the Wall Street Journal Health Blog shortly before researchers presented the study results. "We need to take a careful look at this evidence and see how it should be integrated into our existing guidelines."

One catch: Not everyone agrees that widespread testing for CRP is worthwhile. And that's how those 7 million potential patients would be identified. Plus, critics pointed out that Crestor patients in the study showed a higher risk for diabetes than those on placebo did, raising questions about a huge expansion in Crestor use. "I'm convinced CRP is a fad," one prominent cardiologist told Forbes. We'll have to wait and see how the opinions shake out.

- read the Financial Times story
- find Derek Lowe's analysis at In the Pipeline
- see the WSJ Health Blog item