Cholesterol Drugs Equally Effective In Reducing Plaque
November 15, 2011

Cholesterol Drugs Equally Effective In Reducing Plaque

A new study has found that Pfizer Inc.'s Lipitor and AstraZeneca's Crestor cholesterol drugs are both equally effective in treating coronary artery disease.

Crestor caused a bigger drop in LDL cholesterol than Lipitor, but they both tied when it came to reducing plaque.  LDL cholesterol is the bad kind that can cause build-up of plaque inside the arteries.

"The good thing is that these are both effective drugs," Stephen Nicholls, clinical director of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Cardiovascular Diagnostics and Prevention and lead author of the study, said in a press release.

The team studied over 1,000 patients taking a daily dose of Lipitor or Crestor.  They used intravascular ultrasound to measure plaque inside patients' coronary arteries.

"The takeaway message is that intensive treatment with cholesterol-lowering drugs is very successful at reducing coronary artery disease," Dr. Aaron Kesselheim, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, who was not involved in the study, told ABC News. "And there doesn't appear to be a substantial difference between the two drugs."

Currently, both Lipitor and Crestor cost patents up to $160 per month, but generic versions of Lipitor are on their way after the patent expires for the drug November 30.

"We know from other research that lowering drug costs helps improve patient adherence," Kesselheim told ABC. "Anything that helps patients stick to their prescription treatment plans is a good thing."

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believes that 25 percent of adults over age 45 used statins during 2005 through 2008.

"Generics will facilitate access to statins," Nicholls said in a press release. "And in light of the overwhelming body of evidence that statins are good medications, increased access is a positive outcome."

The finding was reported during the American Heart Association meeting and was published online by The New England Journal of Medicine.


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