Unless you live under a rock far away from media coverage, you will know that Lipitor's patent has run out, and generic versions are about to become available. I believe that these generic drugs will be as good and have the same effects. This will help patients without prescription drug plans covering Lipitor, who will now be able to obtain atorvastatin at a much lower cost.
But does Crestor have a selective advantage over Lipitor that would make it worth the price difference? Both are effective at treating and preventing the progression of coronary artery disease, and both have been studied extensively and are quite safe.
A study from Cleveland Clinic, in the New England Journal of Medicine, studied more than 1,000 patients taking maximum doses of Lipitor or Crestor and measured plaque inside their coronary arteries. Two-thirds of patients on either drug were found to have much less plaque there.
The study also showed that Crestor was better at lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol, a finding to be expected from a more potent drug. But it is clear that both drugs are terrific and can be used almost interchangeably to fight arterial plaque and heart disease.
More studies need to be done to determine if Crestor is worth the premium. In the meantime, it is becoming clearer that statin drugs are a great discovery for cholesterol-loving, meat-eating human beings.
I take Lipitor and it is becoming ever clearer that it is one of the best medical decisions I've ever made. I will switch to generic atorvastatin, but if I were on Crestor and had no side effects, I wouldn't switch.
Marc Siegel MD is medical director of Doctor Radio at NYU Langone Medical Center. He is author of
The Inner Pulse; Unlocking the Secret Code of Sickness and Health