updated 12/15/2009 4:58:27 PM ET 2009-12-15T21:58:27

Federal health advisers say expanded use of AstraZeneca's cholesterol pill Crestor can benefit patients with healthy cholesterol levels by preventing heart attack, stroke and death.

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A Food and Drug Administration panel voted 12-4 with one abstention that Crestor's benefits outweigh its risks in patients with normal cholesterol and no history of heart disease, setting the stage for a dramatic expansion of a drug that is already a blockbuster seller.

The FDA is not required to follow the group's advice, though it usually does.

A positive FDA ruling would give Crestor the broadest indication of any cholesterol drug in the U.S.

FDA's panelist's said the drug's lifesaving potential outweighed side effects, including diabetes risk.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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