Doctors have not traditionally prescribed cholesterol-lowering statin drugs in the critical hours after severe chest pain, but a study to be released Wednesday showed that such medications spared patients from additional cardiac complications, and even death.
The international study, conducted on four continents, focused on treating patients with a statin drug, the same type of cholesterol-reducer that some studies imply may have a role in the prevention of disorders as disparate as osteoporosis, Alzheimer's disease and cancer.
While those studies are in the preliminary laboratory phases of analysis, the research to be report Wednesday involved more than 3,000 heart patients. The family of statins includes a half-dozen drugs, the first of which was developed more than two decades ago.
Reporting in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers found that patients hospitalized for mild heart attacks or angina and treated with a statin were less likely to suffer additional complications or to die suddenly than were their counterparts on placebo. Sudden death is often a consequence of unstable heart disease. The treatment, however, is not a substitute for bypass surgery or angioplasty, the study found.
Led by Dr. Gregory Schwartz, chief of cardiology at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Denver, the analysis reported a 16 percent reduced risk of further heart problems in the treated group.
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