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Statins Found to Have Wider Benefit

October 1, 2005

Two groups of researchers have found that statin drugs, used to lower cholesterol, may offer additional, unexpected health benefits.

Statins may offer protection against heart attack and stroke in diabetic and high-risk patients, and against bone-fracture risk in elderly men, according to two reports by Reuters, published 26 September 2005.

Statin Stats

Statins are used by millions of people worldwide to reduce high cholesterol levels. Low-density lipoproteins-" LDL"- is known as "bad cholesterol" because it deposits fat inside the arteries, while high-density lipoproteins - "HDL"-is "good cholesterol" because it carries the fat away.

Statins lower cholesterol by inhibiting an enzyme necessary in producing cholesterol in the body. The most popular statins include Pfizer's Lipitor, Merck's Zocor and AstraZeneca's Crestor. High cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, obesity and high blood pressure are all risk factors for heart disease.

Cardiovascular Benefit

A team of British researchers has shown the benefits of statins may extend to protection against cardiovascular events.

Lowering cholesterol using a statin may reduce risk of stroke or heart attack by up to one-third, according to study co-ordinator Dr Colin Baigent, an epidemiologist at Britain's Medical Research Council (MRC).

"What we have shown is that the key thing is to find people who are at risk of coronary heart disease or stroke and treat them with a regimen that reduces LDL cholesterol substantially," Baigent said, according to Reuters.

"The size of the reduction in the risk of major vascular events-coronary heart disease or stroke-- is proportional to the size of the absolute reduction in LDL cholesterol."

Baigent and colleagues reviewed results of 14 previous trials that involved treating about 90,000 people with statins. Results showed that high-risk patients with low cholesterol showing a high level of benefit, and people with the largest cholesterol reduction showed the most significant benefit.

The amount of cholesterol reduction is also important, according to Professor Anthony Keech, of the National Health Medical Research Council at the University of Sydney, co-ordinator of the study team in Australia.

"So, bigger cholesterol reductions with more intensive treatment regimens should lead to great benefits," said Keech, according to Reuters.

Statins Reduce Fracture Risk

A study of mostly elderly men has shown that statins may reduce the risk of bone fracture, according to a report by Reuters. In contrast, previous research conducted primarily with women showed mixed results concerning the link between statins and fracture risk.

The new study represents one of the largest studies to date and is reported in the Archives of Internal Medicine by Dr. Richard E. Scranton, of Harvard Medical School in Boston, and colleagues. Of a total 91,052 patients (approximately 95% male) studied, 28,063 were prescribed statins, 2,195 were prescribed non-statin lipid-lowering medications and 60,794 received no lipid-lowering medications.

In an analysis of data adjusted for a variety of individual factors, such as age, weight, presence of osteoporosis and other disorders and other medications, investigators found statin use was associated with a 36% reduction in fracture risk compared with no lipid-lowering therapy and a 32% reduction compared with non-statin lipid-lowering therapy.

When data were examined by dose, patients taking the highest statin doses were 50% less likely to suffer a fracture, compared with patients taking the lowest doses.

According to investigators, further studies are needed that examine the connection between statin use and protection against fractures.

Scientists find wider uses for cholesterol drugs, Reuters, 26 September 2005.
'Statin' drugs reduce fracture risk in men, Reuters, 26 September 2005.
Statin Use and Fracture Risk: Study of a US Veterans Population, Richard E. Scranton et al., Archives of Internal Medicine, volume 165, pages 2007-2012, 26 September 2005.

Posted: October 2005