Sales of AstraZeneca’s blockbuster Crestor are likely to rise after being granted expanded approval for the cholesterol drug by regulators in Europe.

Crestor (rosuvastatin) has now been approved for the prevention of major cardiovascular events in patients who are at high risk of having a first such event. The green light, which covers 19 European countries, is based on a subgroup analysis of the landmark 17,802–patient Jupiter study which revealed that Crestor significantly reduced the relative risk of heart attack by 54%, stroke by 48% and arterial revascularisation by 46% versus placebo.

A similar expanded approval was granted in the USA in February and Michael Cressman, executive director of clinical research for Crestor, said the new indication is “a significant milestone and means that rosuvastatin can now be prescribed to high risk patients to prevent CV events including heart attacks and strokes”. He added that studies have previously shown that rosuvastatin was the most effective statin at lowering LDL-C, had a significant effect on raising HDL-C and slowed the progression of atherosclerosis, “an underlying cause of cardiovascular disease”.

Sales of the drug are now expected to leap, although some analysts believe the rise could be tempered by the introduction in the USA of generic copies of rival Pfizer’s Lipitor (atorvastatin) next year.

Meantime, the New York Times has reported that the US Justice Department is expected to disclose details on Wednesday of a settlement reached with AstraZeneca over the latter’s marketing of the antipsychotic Seroquel (quetiapine). The company is not commenting but last year revealed that it set aside $520 million with respect to the investigation.