The two best-selling statins are going head-to-head for the first time with the initiation of a study that will look at the effectiveness of Lipitor and Crestor in treating clogged arteries.

AstraZeneca says it is launching a new clinical trial, called SATURN, which is designed to measure the impact of its blockbuster Crestor (rosuvastatin) 40mg and Pfizer’s Lipitor (atorvastatin) 80mg on the progression of atherosclerosis in high-risk patients. SATURN is a 104-week, Phase IIIb study that will involve approximately 1,300 patients at 170 centres and the first will be enrolled later this month. It is expected to complete in 2011.

The Anglo-Swedish drugmaker said that SATURN is part of its GALAXY clinical trials programme, which hopes to address “important unanswered questions in statin research and to investigate the impact of rosuvastatin on control of lipids, atherosclerosis and cardiovascular morbidity and mortality”. Currently, more than 63,000 patients have been recruited from 55 countries to participate in the GALAXY programme.

Two major studies in the aforementioned programme, ASTEROID and METEOR, “have already demonstrated the significant impact of rosuvastatin 40mg on atherosclerosis across the disease spectrum”, said Elisabeth Bjork, global medical science director for Crestor.