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Study: Wider cholesterol drug use may save lives

Associated Press | 11/12/2008, 3:12 a.m.

They were randomly assigned to take dummy pills or Crestor, the strongest statin on the market, made by British-based AstraZeneca PLC. Neither participants nor their doctors knew who was taking what.

The study was supposed to last five years but was stopped in March, after about two years, when independent monitors saw that those taking Crestor were faring better than the others.

Full results were announced Sunday. Crestor reduced a combined measure — heart attacks, strokes, heart-related deaths or hospitalizations, or the need for an artery-opening procedure — by 44 percent.

“We reduced the risk of a heart attack by 54 percent, the risk of a stroke by 48 percent and the chance of needing bypass surgery or angioplasty by 46 percent,” Ridker said.

Looked at another way, there were 136 heart-related problems per year for every 10,000 people taking dummy pills versus 77 for those on Crestor.

Remarkably, every single subgroup benefited from the drug.

“If you’re skinny it worked, if you’re heavy it worked. If you lived here or there, if you smoked, it worked,” Ridker said.

AstraZeneca paid for the study, and Ridker and other authors have consulted for the company and other statin makers.

One concern: More people in the Crestor group saw blood-sugar levels rise or were newly diagnosed with diabetes.

Crestor also has the highest rate among statins of a rare but serious muscle problem, so there are probably safer and cheaper ways to get the same benefits, said Dr. Sidney Wolfe of the consumer group Public Citizen.

“It is highly unlikely that [the benefits are] specific to Crestor,” said Wolfe, who has campaigned against the drug in the past.

Researchers do not know whether the benefits seen in the study were due to reducing CRP or cholesterol, since Crestor did both.

This study and two other government-sponsored ones reported on Sunday “provide the strongest evidence to date” for testing C-reactive protein, and adding it to traditional risk measures could identify millions more people who would benefit from treatment, Nabel’s statement says.

(Associated Press)