HOUSTON The annual American College of Cardiology meeting last month provided a striking example of how the new technology of combinatorial chemistry is changing the face of the drugs market. At the conference, clinical trial results for a new statin drug — AstraZeneca's Crestor (rosuvastatin) — were reported in a series of papers. AstraZeneca is expected to file for US and European regulatory clearances and hopes to bring the product to market in 2002. If so, this will bring the number of statin drugs on the market to seven, less than six years after commercialisation of the first one. It is this shift in pace of the new drug development process that is effectively fragmenting the drugs market.

Statins are widely acknowledged as being effective in substantially lowering blood cholesterol levels by reducing the liver's production of cholesterol. The total market for products that reduce blood cholesterol levels in 2000...

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