March 19, 2009

Millions may benefit from taking statins

More than 6 million heart patients might benefit from statins to prevent heart attacks and strokes, U.S. researchers said.

Dr. Erin D. Michos of The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine said about half of all cardiovascular events occur in patients who don't have high cholesterol and about 20 percent of these events occur in people who have no identifiable cardiovascular disease risk factor.

The researchers built on the research at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston that found statins protect against heart attacks and strokes even in older adults.

Michos and Dr. Roger S. Blumenthal gathered data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey estimate that about 6.5 million older adults with low cholesterol and high C-reactive protein might benefit from statins. If they expanded their search criteria to the cholesterol level cutoff of 160 mg/dl that doctors often use when deciding to prescribe statins, the researchers increased this statin-benefiting group's size to 10 million, the study said.

We're showing that doctors may be able to prevent thousands of heart attacks, strokes and deaths each year if we expand statin-prescribing criteria to include C-reactive protein levels, something we can assess as part of a simple blood test, Michos said in a statement.

The findings are published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.