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Crestor compared to Lipitor in heart study: Which one won?

Stethoscope and charts
Stethoscope and charts with heart ecg graph. iStockphoto

(CBS/AP) Drug-maker AstraZeneca gambled on a study that pitted its cholesterol-lowering drug Crestor Pfizer's Lipitor. The gamble didn't pay off - Crestor proved no better at preventing arterial plaques than Lipitor.

The two-year study - scheduled to be presented November 15 at an American Heart Association conference in Orlando Fla. - looked at 1,300 high-risk heart patients to see which drug was superior. Crestor was more effective at reducing coronary artery plaques - but the results were not statistically significant. That means they could have occurred by chance.

The news sent AstraZeneca stocks tumbling with some financial analysts likening the study to the drug-maker shooting itself in the foot. But what do the results mean for patients on both these drugs?

"It really means nothing," Dr. Howard S. Weintraub, clinical director of NYU's Center for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease, told CBS News. "These are two excellent drugs."

People expected Crestor to blow away Lipitor based on earlier studies, he said, but the differences between the two drugs are small. The results shouldn't change a doctor's perspective on prescribing either medication, he said.

"Both are great drugs - no generic holds a candle to them," Weintraub said.

Coronary artery disease, caused by plaque buildup in the heart's arteries, is the number one killer of American men and women.

The National Institutes of Health has more on coronary artery disease.