We keep thinking cardiovascular disease is a great opportunity," Dr. Rossetti said.
"If this works, it could be as big as the statins," said Steven Nissen, chairman of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic. Cholesterol-lowering statins—including industry bestseller Lipitor from Pfizer Inc.—have transformed heart-disease treatment over the past two decades. Sales of statin drugs are currently more than $15 billion a year globally.
But that is a big "if." Pfizer abruptly halted development of a similar drug called torcetrapib four years ago, in an $800 million debacle. A major study had found the drug led to deaths and heart attacks even though it significantly increased HDL and reduced LDL cholesterol.