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Friday, December 11, 2009

Why You May Soon Hear a Lot More About CRP Testing

AstraZeneca wants to sell its cholesterol drug Crestor to certain people with normal cholesterol levels. A panel of FDA advisers is meeting next week to consider the proposition, and the agency just put out a hefty pre-meeting memo that summarizes the risks and benefits. (If you don't want to read the whole memo, Dow Jones Newswires story hits the high points.)

AstraZeneca's request is based on a big study called Jupiter, which found the drug reduced the risk of serious heart problems in patients with normal cholesterol but high levels of something called C-reactive protein, or CRP. The company wants FDA approval to use the drug to treat patients like those in the study.

But CRP has yet to join stalwarts like cholesterol and blood pressure as a common measure of cardiovascular risk. "I don't feel we currently evidence for the routine use of [CRP and other new biomarkers] in screening people for risk of heart disease," Thomas Wang, a Mass. General doc, told the Health Blog this summer.

Still, the CRP test might be useful in cases where docs are on the fence about a patient's risk. Indeed, some doctors may already be prescribing Crestor to borderline patients with high CRP levels. And if AstraZeneca gets the new indication it's seeking, don't be surprised if you see a big marketing push aimed at driving up the number of patients who get a CRP test.

Photo by CarbonNYC via Flickr


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