Cutting Your Cholesterol

Tuesday, November 15, 2011 - 4:12pm

New drugs show promise; study finds no difference between Crestor and Lipitor results.

Doctors write millions of prescriptions every year for drugs that lower cholesterol called statins.

Blockbuster drug Lipitor is the nation's best-selling statin, with annual sales of more than $7-billion.

As of December 1st Lipitor won't cost as much.

It's going generic.

Experts think patients and doctors may overwhelmingly make the switch to generic Lipitor, especially now that a new study shows virtually no difference between Lipitor and a similar big brand name drug, Crestor.

Dr. Stephen Nicholls of the Cleveland Clinic helped lead a head-to-head analysis of Lipitor and Crestor.

Not only did the drugs lower levels of bad cholesterol equally, higher doses of the drugs were found to be safe and actually reduce plaque build-up in arteries.

"Conventionally, we thought all we could do was maybe slow the growth of plaque," Dr. Nicholls says. "The idea that you could actually remove plaque was something we never thought we'd be able to do."

The amount of plaque removed was small and it's not clear whether it will translate into fewer heart attacks or strokes.

Doctors who presented the research at the American Heart Association's annual meeting in Orlando Tuesday are excited about its potential.

About a third of the trial participants never finished the study comparing Crestor and Lipitor, so outside experts say there is a chance the results would change if they collected data from everyone involved.

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