Showdown time is coming for AZ's Crestor

It's the final countdown, the year AstraZeneca has been preparing for. Crestor is facing stepped-up competition as Pfizer's Lipitor goes off patent in November, because cheap generics could woo away patients from AZ's more expensive brand. The British drugmaker has been working hard to give Crestor an edge. But will that time and money pay off?

Reuters poses the question to several analysts today, and the assessments are all over the map. Estimates of ongoing sales range from under $5 billion to nearly $9 billion in 2014. Consensus: $7.4 billion, compared with last year's $5.6 billion.

"There are two significant risks to Crestor this year," Jeffries analyst Jeff Holford told the news service. "The first is that we will probably have the appeal hearing on the Crestor patent decision, which I think everyone has forgotten about." The other: The results of a head-to-head study against Lipitor come out later this year, and the consequences of a poor showing--and benefits of a good one--are obvious. 

Sanford Bernstein's Tim Anderson figures there's a 65 percent chance that Crestor will outperform Lipitor in that study. As Reuters points out, past trials suggest that high doses of Crestor beat high doses of Lipitor at cutting bad cholesterol and raising good cholesterol. But the impending outcomes study will show whether those numbers translate into real benefits.

- see the Reuters news