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Pill may reduce heart disease

4th April 2006

15032006_artery1.jpgThe build-up of fatty deposits inside the arteries - atherosclerosis - can trigger cardiovascular disease. An international study of 349 patients over two years found high doses of a powerful new statin, rosuvastatin, could break down the deposits.

Details were presented to an American College of Cardiology meeting

The fatty deposits inside arteries can trigger problems by breaking off and blocking blood flow. Cardiovascular disease kills 233,000 people a year in the UK, and an estimated 16.7 million a year world-wide.

Patients at centres in the US, Canada, Europe and Australia were given intensive treatment with rosuvastatin, known commercially as Crestor, which, along with other statins, was known to cut cholesterol levels.

Patients received at least one 40mg pill of the drug a day - most statins are more commonly used in doses of 10mg or 20mg/day. Tests found that the drug cut levels of potentially damaging LDL-cholesterol by about 50% and boosted levels of the beneficial HDL form by around 15%.

As harmful cholesterol was reduced, build-ups of fatty deposits in the patients' arteries also showed signs of a reduction.  After two years of treatment their thickness was reduced by 6.8% - and even more so in particularly diseased parts of a blood vessel.

The research found almost four out of five patients (78%) demonstrated some reduction in the level of atherosclerosis. The reductions were found to be greatest in the arteries with the most severe disease.
 
Rosuvastatin has previously been linked to a small number of cases of a muscle wasting disease. However, a British Heart Foundation spokesman said statins were extremely safe drugs. Side effects are more likely at higher doses of drug. 

The medical director of the British Heart Foundation, Professor Peter Weissberg, said the study was important, but that it was yet to be demonstrated that breaking down the fatty deposits would actually mean fewer heart attacks.

The study was funded by AstraZeneca, the makers of rosuvastatin, and will be published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in April.
 

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