Seeking to increase its share of voice without beefing up its sales force, AstraZeneca is partnering with Abbott on a co-promotion of Crestor in the US.

AstraZeneca spokeswoman Donna Huang said the move is a response, in part, to increased interest in the drug among physicians since it received an indication for use in slowing the progress of atherosclerosis last November.

“For us, it’s about knowing that we’re meeting that need with extra share of voice, without increasing the size of our sales force,” said Huang. “That creates flexibility for us in the future to reallocate resources when we have emerging compounds that we’re launching.”

US net sales of the drug for the second quarter were up 17% over Q2 2007 to $415 million. Crestor has doubtless benefited from the uncertainty surrounding rival Merck/Schering-Plough’s Vytorin, which has stumbled since its ENHANCE trial showed no benefit in fighting atherosclerosis. In February, AstraZeneca launched ads touting the findings of its METEOR study, which showed Crestor to be effective in slowing atherosclerosis. The company has also run an unbranded atherosclerosis awareness campaign dubbed “Us Against Athero.”

The deal gives Abbott the non-exclusive right to promote Crestor alongside AstraZeneca in the US, excluding Puerto Rico. The companies declined to comment on the financial terms of the deal or the size of the sales forces involved. AstraZeneca’s US sales force numbers around 5.500 overall.

It’s the second time the two firms have teamed up on lipid drugs – under a 2006 agreement, they’re partnering on a combination of Crestor and Abbott’s TriLipix, a developmental fibrate. Abbott expects an FDA decision on TriLipix before the end of the year, and the companies plan to submit an NDA for the combo in the second half of 2009.

Abbott also markets HDL-raising Niaspan, triglyceride-lowering TriCor and Niaspan/simvastatin combo Simcor.

Crestor is indicated for use as an adjunct to diet in treating lipid disorders including primary hyperlipidemia, mixed dyslipidemia and isolated hypertriglyceridemia, as well as for slowing the progression of atherosclerosis in adult patients.