There is little to distinguish between currently marketed cholesterol-lowering drugs, according to new research published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. The news is unlikely to please pharmaceutical companies, which spend billions of dollars on marketing in a bid to make gains on rivals in this highly-competitive arena.

The study looked at the effect of five different statin therapies to prevent a second cardiovascular event or death amongst elderly patients. In excess of 18,500 patients were prescribed either Pfizer’s number one offering Lipitor (atorvastatin), Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Pravachol (pravastatin), Merck & Co’s Zocor (simvastatin) and Mevacor (lovastatin), or Novartis’ Lescol (fluvastatin), and results showed no difference between the compounds on either the combined primary outcome of heart attack and death, or death alone.

In an editorial accompanying the article, James Wright from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver notes: “The benefit of statins is independent not only of which statin is prescribed, but also of the percentage reduction in low-density lipoprotein cholesterol over the range of 21%–37%.” He adds: “In most settings of secondary prevention it does not appear to matter which statin is prescribed.”