August 29, 2005

After heart attack, ‘statin’ drugs save lives

By Anthony J. Brown, MD

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Previous studies have already
shown that people who have a heart attack do better if they're
prescribed a statin drug (such as Lipitor or Zocor, for
example) when they leave the hospital. Now, new research
suggests that the sooner these agents are started after
admission to the hospital the better.

In a study reported in the American Journal of Cardiology,
starting statin therapy within 24 hours of admission for a
heart attack markedly reduced the risk of early complications
and of dying in the hospital.

"This is the largest study to look at whether very early
use of statin therapy after (a heart attack) can influence
clinical outcomes," Dr. Gregg C. Fonarow, from the University
of California Los Angeles, told Reuters Health. The results do,
in fact, "suggest that statins offer additional protective
effects early."

The study involved an analysis of data from 174,635
patients entered in a heart attack database.

The subjects were divided into four groups based on the
timing of statin use: begun before the heart attack and
continued afterward, begun before the heart attack and
discontinued afterward, newly started within 24 hours of the
heart attack, and not used at all.

When statin therapy was continued or started within 24
hours of the heart attack, the in-hospital mortality rate was 5
percent and 4 percent, respectively. By contrast, the rate seen
with discontinuation or never use of a statin was about 16

"The ... protective effect that is suggested here may also
apply to congestive heart failure," Fonarow noted. "So, we are
now involved in a randomized trial looking at the protective
effects that statins may provide for patients with heart

SOURCE: American Journal of Cardiology, September 1, 2005.