LONDON, June 5 (Reuters) - AstraZeneca Plc’s (AZN.L) cholesterol drug Crestor is gaining market share in the highly competitive U.S. market, following recent encouraging data and problems faced by rival medicine Vytorin.
Industry analysts said on Thursday that Crestor’s new prescription share had started to increase since March, reaching 8.2 percent in the week to May 23 from 7.7 percent in the week ending March 21.
As a result, total prescription numbers are increasing again after almost a year of broadly flat monthly totals.
“We see a risk that our forecast of 5 percent second-quarter 2008 U.S. Crestor sales growth may be a tad light,” analysts at Citigroup said in a note.
The brokerage currently forecasts U.S. Crestor sales of $371 million in April to June, out of a global total of $842 million.
AstraZeneca Chief Executive David Brennan told Reuters in April he expected Crestor to benefit from a clinical study showing it reduces the risk of death and heart problems even in some patients with low or normal cholesterol.
Analysts believe Crestor has also gained from recent criticism of Vytorin, a rival cholesterol fighter from Merck & Co (MRK.N) and Schering-Plough SGP.N.
Both Crestor and Vytorin are used to treat difficult cases of raised cholesterol.
Citigroup said Crestor was also experiencing strong growth in a number of international markets, with annualised sales of around $160 million in Japan, $300 million in Canada and $75 million in Asutralia.
Crestor is a crucial product for AstraZeneca since sales of its top seller, ulcer pill Nexium, are slowing and new drugs have been slow to emerge from the company’s pipeline. (Reporting by Ben Hirschler; Editing by David Cowell)