AstraZeneca, the drug company, said it was halting a 15,000- patient study of its blockbuster cholesterol medicine Crestor, because early findings already proved the drug significantly reduces the risk of heart problems.
The success of the trial raised hopes that Crestor could be expanded for use in millions of new patients, and that the findings will give it a new marketing edge over struggling rivals.
The AstraZeneca study, codenamed Jupiter, was designed to see if Crestor reduced heart attacks and other problems in at-risk patients, even if they did not have high cholesterol. The study has been halted after independent monitors saw "unequivocal evidence of a reduction in cardiovascular morbidity".
The news came a day after scientists said two other cholesterol drugs, Vytorin and Zetia, sold by Merck and Schering-Plough of the US, were no more efficient at preventing the furring of arteries than older, cheaper drugs. Doctors on a panel at a cardiology conference in Chicago said the drugs should be prescribed less often, a surprisingly negative recommendation that sent Merck and Schering-Plough shares plunging yesterday. …