September 15, 2011
To get approval for a new medicine it is necessary to provide evidence that the medicine works – which usually means showing that it is better than a placebo. It is not usually necessary to provide comparative data showing how the new medicine measures up against an existing medicine or treatment.
Good comparative data helps to promote good science and good medicine and should be encouraged, but it’s not easy. (There are many ways to produce bad comparative data, as can be seen here)
Astra Zeneca commissioned a head to head clinical trial (called Saturn) to compare their Crestor anti-cholesterol medicine against Pfizer’s Lipitor, which will soon be off patent (and therefore probably cheaper).
The results came out recently and do not seem to show any advantage for Crestor over its competitor, but science and medicine have gained from the process. So bouquets for Astra Zeneca.
Not from the Wall Street Journal however.
The outcome of the tests were reported in a blog by the Healthcare and News Editor Sten Stovall under the heading
“AstraZeneca: A Lesson in How to Shoot Yourself in the Foot?”