August 31, 2008 / 10:33 AM / 11 years ago

Astra's Crestor fails in new heart-failure study

MUNICH, Aug 31 (Reuters) - AstraZeneca Plc’s (AZN.L) cholesterol drug Crestor has failed in a second clinical trial for heart failure, suggesting such statin medicines don’t improve survival in patients with the chronic condition.

Patients given Crestor proved just as likely to die early or be admitted to hospital with cardiovascular problems as those on standard therapy alone, researchers told the European Society of Cardiology annual meeting on Sunday.

In the latest so-called GISSI-HF study, involving 4,500 patients followed for an average of 3.9 years, 29 percent of people taking Crestor died from any cause against 28 percent of those given a placebo, or dummy, pill.

The news deals a blow to remaining hopes that Crestor, which is particularly good at cutting levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol, might be the first statin to improve survival in heart failure.

Heart failure is a hard-to-treat condition in which the weakened heart cannot pump blood effectively, causing shortness of breath and other problems.

Crestor, a five-year-old product, is a key growth driver for AstraZeneca. Sales totalled $1.7 billion in the first half of the year and Citigroup analysts expect this figure to rise to $5.2 billion in 2010, when Crestor will account for 15 percent of group sales.

Last November, another study called CORONA also failed to show any benefits from adding Crestor to existing medications for heart failure patients.

“Together, these two well-conducted clinical trials establish that, although statin therapy lowers concentrations of LDL cholesterol, is well tolerated and seems reasonably safe, it does not produce meaningful improvements in survival in patients with chronic heart failure,” said Gregg Fonarow of Ahmanson-UCLA Cardiomyopathy Center, Los Angeles.

The results of the new study led by Gianni Tognoni of the Mario Negri Institute in Milan were also published online by the Lancet medical journal, along with a commentary by Fonarow.

The latest study, in fact, was even less encouraging than the previous one. While the CORONA trial showed a modest reduction in the number of admissions to hospital for cardiovascular events among Crestor patients, no differences were seen in GISSI-HF. (Editing by David Holmes)

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