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Patients who took 80 mg of Pfizer Inc's Lipitor (atorvastatin calcium) experienced fewer heart attacks and strokes. Funded by Pfizer, the 5-year Treating to New Targets Trial included 10,000 patients with heart disease and high low-density lipoprotein (LDL; "bad") cholesterol levels. The study examined whether high-dose Lipitor patients who battled to lower their LDL-cholesterol levels to under the current 100 mg/dL guidelines would exhibit additional cardiovascular benefits, compared with Lipitor patients who kept their LDL readings at recommended levels.
The study, reported in the New England Journal of Medicine (April 7, 2005), found that 80 mg of Lipitor lowered the LDL count to 77, compared with 10 mg, which brought the count close to the recommended level of 100 mg/dL.
The study also showed that the higher dose could reduce heart attack and stroke risk by 22%.
Commenting on the study, researcher David D. Waters, MD, said, "We are very happy with the results. I'll be writing a lot more 8s than 1s."
Yet, the researchers noted one troubling finding. The risk of patients dying from other causes rose slightly. In both groups, cancer was responsible for more than half the deaths unrelated to heart disease. The findings indicated 85 cancer deaths in the 80-mg group, compared with 75 in the 10-mg group. Lead researcher John LaRosa, MD, however, said that the numbers were too small to reach any conclusion.