August 29, 2005

Statin drugs lower heart attack death-study

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Giving a heart attack patient a
statin drug right away reduces the chance he or she will die by
50 percent, U.S. researchers said on Monday.

Statin drugs are used to lower cholesterol levels and
prevent strokes and heart attacks long-term, but the new study
suggests that the drugs might join aspirin as something to give
to patients immediately when they suffer a heart attack.

"We've known that long-term statin therapy is beneficial,
but this study provides the strongest clinical evidence to date
supporting the early cardioprotective effects of statins
immediately following a heart attack," said cardiologist Dr.
Gregg Fonarow of the University of California, Los Angeles, who
led the study.

"As statins are already routinely started in myocardial
infarction patients prior to hospital discharge, it would be
relatively easy to administer this medication on arrival to the
emergency department," Fonarow said in a statement.

Fonarow and colleagues looked at the records of more than
170,000 heart attack patients.

Those given statin drugs before hospitalization and within
24 hours after a heart attack had a 54 percent lower risk of
dying in the hospital compared to patients not on statin
therapy, they reported in the September issue of the American
Journal of Cardiology.

Patients who had not been prescribed statins in the past
but were given one within 24 hours of hospitalization were 58
percent less likely to die.

"We were surprised that early statin therapy showed such a
striking effect immediately after a heart attack," Fonarow
said. "We also found that statins provided additional
protection from other heart attack complications as well."

These complications included cardiac arrest, cardiac shock,
cardiac rupture and ventricular fibrillation.

Statins lower cholesterol levels but they also affect the
linings of the blood vessels. They raise levels of nitric
oxide, which in turn may reduce the inflammation associated
with heart attacks.

The study was funded by Genentech Inc., which does not
currently make a statin drug but which helps support the
registry of patients used for the study, and Fonarow has done
research for several companies that make statins.