Magazine article Drug Topics

Major Study Says Statins May Be 'New Aspirin' for the Heart

Magazine article Drug Topics

Major Study Says Statins May Be 'New Aspirin' for the Heart

Article excerpt

About a third of all heart attacks and strokes could be prevented if more people took a statin drug-and that includes many people with normal cholesterol levels. This was one of the more provocative conclusions reported at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association, held in Anaheim, Calif., last month.

"Statins are the new aspirin," claimed principal investigator Rory Collins, M.D., of Oxford University in England, who reported the results from a large Heart Protection Study sponsored by the Medical Research Council and the British Heart Foundation. In comparing statins to aspirin, he said, he was referring to the finding more than 20 years ago that aspirin could help prevent heart attacks.

The new study involved 20,536 people ranging in age from 40 to 80 years who were considered at high risk for cardiovascular disease, even though many had normal cholesterol levels. Many findings showed that cholesterollowering with statin treatment not only reduced the incidence of heart attacks and strokes by almost a third but also reduced the need for angioplasty, arterial surgery, and amputations in the group randomized to 40 mg/d simvastatin (Zocor, Merck) as compared with those randomized to placebo.

Half of each group was also randomly selected to receive 600 mg vitamin E, 250 mg vitamin C, and 20 mg beta carotene, which turned out to have no effect on cardiovascular events. Collins said that other statins would probably have a similar effect to Zocor, although the other drugs were not studied.

New heart-failure drug

Valsartan (Diovan, Novartis), an angiotensin II receptor blocker, has been shown in a trial of more than 5,000 patients to prevent not only the time to first hospitalization for heart failure but also the time to subsequent hospitalizations, according to a report by Jay Cohn, M.D., of the University of Minnesota. Novartis has received an "approvable" letter from the Food & Drug Administration for valsartan for the treatment of heart failure in patients who are not on ACE inhibitors, in addition to its previous approval as firstline treatment for hypertension.

The new study reported at the AHA meeting showed that valsartan reduced the number of hospitalizations for heart failure by 22.3% as compared with placebo, according to lead investigator Cohn. …

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