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Posted: November 25, 2008

Statins Cut Heart Risk Even in the Healthy: Study

Many practicing physicians have long thought that statins -- drugs used to cut cholesterol -- are so beneficial that nearly everyone should take them, and a new study lends some support to that informal observation.

In a major study, AstraZeneca PLC's statin Crestor sharply cut the risk of heart attacks among apparently healthy patients who did not have elevated cholesterol readings. The findings were so dramatic that the study was cut short so that patients in the control group could be given the results.

 

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The study, called Jupiter, found a 44% reduction in heart-related death and illness among those given Crestor, compared with those who were given placebos. The participants -- more than 17,000 of them -- showed no signs of serious heart disease or high cholesterol levels but were at the prime age to develop heart disease -- over age 50 for the women, over 60 for the men.

 

"This is very reassuring for statins as a class and for the public at large," said Dr. Paul Ridker, a cardiologist at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, who led the Jupiter study.

 

He said statins are "highly effective at doing what really matters," preventing serious heart-related events.

 

The study highlighted a circumstance that has long bedeviled cardiologists -- namely, that about half of heart attacks occur in people whose cholesterol is normal. It gave credence to the notion that a highly sensitive test for inflammation, called CRP, can help find people who may be falsely lulled by low cholesterol levels.

 

But many physicians urged caution and said more research is needed before the CRP test is more widely administered and before more patients are put on statins which, although relatively safe, can cause serious problems in a small percentage of patients.

 

The Jupiter study was released in New Orleans at a meeting of heart specialists.

 

Earlier this year, another study found that the cholesterol drug Vytorin failed to reduce heart attack risk. Researchers said the Jupiter study should dispel concerns raised by the Vytorin study.

 

(Article courtesy of ConsumerAffairs.com)

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