The drug: Crestor
Company: AstraZeneca/Shionogi
Estimated worldwide sales 2012: $6.65 billion

AstraZeneca ($AZN) has plenty of incentive to keep its cholesterol drug Crestor going strong. The company has suffered some recent R&D defeats, and it lost patent protection on its mega-selling antipsychotic Seroquel in March. The company's future is up in the air, with ex-CEO David Brennan gone and incoming chief Pascal Soriot, hired away from Roche ($RHHBY), just digging in.

So, the fact that Crestor is expected to hold its own this year is a very good thing. And that's in spite of newly minted competition from generic Lipitor, Pfizer's ($PFE) best-selling cholesterol fighter. Last year, AstraZeneca put up $6.62 billion in Crestor sales; this year's total is estimated at $6.65 billion. So far, at least, Crestor hasn't lost much ground to Lipitor knockoffs. For the first half, sales shrank by about 2% to $3.087 billion.

AstraZeneca had hoped that long-term research would give Crestor a performance edge over Lipitor. But though the SATURN study showed Crestor beat Lipitor at lowering cholesterol, the AstraZeneca drug wasn't any better at keeping arteries clear--and that's the result AstraZeneca had been aiming for.

Meanwhile, AstraZeneca has been using one tried-and-true technique to keep patients on its branded drug. The company offers a co-pay assistance card to keep patients' costs down, reducing their incentive to switch to generic Lipitor.

For more:
Big Pharma betting billions in high-stakes hunt for the next Lipitor
AZ's Crestor scored points, but didn't beat Lipitor
AZ launches Crestor co-pay card to battle Lipitor copies


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