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Drug ‘Unfurs’ Arteries 2006-03-14

Posted by clype in Health.
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Intensive therapy with 'statin' drugs may not just stall deterioration of the arteries but actually reverse it, research suggests.

The 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 a US American College of Cardiology meeting. Heart disease kills 114 000 people/year in the UK, and affects 2.6 million overall.

Ms.Sarah Jarvis MD, a London GP and member of 'The Royal College of General Practitioners', described the results as 'dramatically exciting'. She said:

'We have a drug that can not only halt the progression of the disease but, in the vast majority of patients, it actually showed the disease regress.'

Professor Mr.Peter Weissberg, medical director of 'The British Heart Foundation', said the study was 'important'. But he said it was yet to be demonstrated that breaking down the fatty deposits would actually mean fewer heart attacks. The study focused on patients with 'cardiovascular' disease at centres in the USA, Canada, Europe and Australia. They 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' come in doses of no bigger than 20mg. Tests found that the drug cut levels of potentially damaging 'LDL-cholesterol' by about 50 per cent and boosted levels of the beneficial 'HDL-Cholestrerol' by around 15 per cent.

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 per cent — and even more so in particularly diseased parts of a blood vessel. The research found almost four out of five patients (78 per cent) demonstrated some reduction in the level of 'atherosclerosis'. The reductions were found to be greatest in the arteries with the most severe disease. Mr. Weissberg said:

 

'Previously it was thought that "statins" saved lives by stabilising "plaques" — the build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries — thereby preventing them from rupturing to cause a "heart attack" or "stroke".

'This study encouragingly seems to demonstrate a small but definite regression of "atherosclerotic plaques".

'However, this study wasn't designed to test whether this treatment actually saves lives, so whilst the results sound promising and are likely to translate into a better outcome for heart patients, we still need further studies to confirm whether the regression demonstrated translates to fewer "heart attacks".'

'Rosuvastatin' has previously been linked to a small number of cases of a muscle wasting disease. However, the drug was given a #clean bill of health# by the US American 'Food and Drug Administration' last year 2005. The study will be published in 'The Journal of the American Medical Association' in 2006-04.

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