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Statin drugs for artery conditions

23rd September 2005

Statins, a range of drugs that are already widely used to treat high blood levels of cholesterol, should be given to all patients with artery conditions, new research says.

The study, jointly coordinated by the Clinical Trial Service Unit (CTSU) at the University of Oxford and the National Health Medical Research Council (NHMRC) at the University of Sydney, Australia said statins would give benefit to more people if targeted at all patients with diseased arteries, regardless of their presenting cholesterol level.

Statins are known to be effective in preventing the number of heart attacks and strokes in a wide range of patients who are at high risk of such disease.

However, most doctors consider statin treatment only when the blood cholesterol level is above a certain threshold. As a consequence, patients with narrowed blood vessels are generally not treated with a statin if their blood cholesterol is below this level.

The study combined results from more than 90,000 participants in 14 previously completed trials involving statin treatments.

It showed that many people presenting with lower cholesterol levels could also benefit from statin treatment and the biggest benefits occurred in those patients with the largest absolute reductions in cholesterol after treatment.

The Medical Research Council scientist, Dr Colin Baigent who coordinated the study team in Oxford said: "This study shows that statin drugs could be beneficial in a much wider range of patients than is currently considered for treatment.

"What matters most is that doctors identify all patients at risk of a heart attack or stroke, largely ignoring their presenting blood cholesterol level, and then prescribe a statin at a daily dose that reduces their cholesterol substantially."