AstraZeneca’s Crestor could prove to be a new weapon in the battle against heart disease, according to new data disclosed over the weekend. This is the first study to use magnetic resonance imaging to examine the effect of a statin on fatty plaques – the main cause of cardiovascular disease – and showed that Crestor has a beneficial effect on their composition.

Plaques that have a high density of lipids within their core are most vulnerable to rupture, which in turn can lead to sudden heart attacks or strokes. Professor Hatsukami, lead investigator of the so-called ORION study, based at the Washington University School of Medicine, Seattle, comments: “Treatment aimed at stabilising the plaque structure, such as reducing the lipid-rich core, may emerge as a vital intervention in reducing the risk of cardiovascular events.”

And AstraZeneca will be keeping its fingers’ crossed that these latest data have a positive impact on prescribing figures. In a recent NOP survey of healthcare professionals in the UK, 91% of cardiologists, 99% of GPs and 98% of practice nurses questioned said that research showing that statins can slow progression of atherosclerosis and the mechanism by which they do so, would be an important consideration when prescribing.

- Meanwhile, Europe’s CHMP, has deemed that the benefit:risk ratio is favourable for either Crestor 5mg or 10mg as starting doses. The review was related to “differing views” on recommendations for the Crestor starting dose. However, for patients with predisposing factors for myopathy, patients of Chinese and Japanese ancestry, and those over 70, the initial dose should be 5 mg [[29/11/04b]].