DECEMBER 01, 2007

Statins Continue to Help Years After Dosing Ends

New research into cholesterol-lowering statins has found that the medicines continue to have a heart-protective effect on patients even after they stop taking the drugs. The study also shows evidence of the medicine?s ability to halt or even reverse the progression of heart disease and stave off premature death.

The study involved 6500 men enrolled in the University of Glasgow?s West of Scotland Coronary Prevention Study, a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial of pravastatin in middle-aged men without a history of myocardial infarction. In 1995, the study demonstrated a significant benefit after approximately 5 years of treatment with a statin, versus placebo. The participants were followed for an additional 10 years after treatment cessation.

During the entire 15-year study period, the pravastatin group had significant reductions in death from all causes, compared with the placebo group. The researchers encouraged those already taking statins to keep taking them, however. The findings were reported in the October 11, 2007, issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Better Prostate Cancer Survival for Men Taking Statins

A recent study has found that men taking statins to lower their cholesterol have a 10% greater chance of surviving prostate cancer with radiation therapy 10 years after initial diagnosis. Although researchers called it an ?intriguing and very interesting finding,? they came short of supporting the use of statins in all prostate cancer patients.

Researchers at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City studied 871 men who were given radiation therapy for prostate cancer between 1995 and 2000. The 5- year relapse-free survival rate for the men taking statins was 91%, while the 10-year survival rate was 76%. Those who did not take statins had an 81% and 66% rate, respectively. The researchers are not sure if the anticancer effect of the statins is independent of the radiation therapy, or if the drug works with the radiation to help fight off the disease.

They stated that this study, as well as past studies that suggest a beneficial effect of statins on prostate cancer, call for a tightly monitored clinical trial to zero in on its specific effects. The findings were published in the November 1, 2007, issue of the International Journal of Radiation Oncology.

More Young Adults Taking Cholesterol Meds

A report released by Medco Health Solutions Inc showed that the use of cholesterol and blood pressure (BP) medications among younger adults (aged 20 to 44 years) is on the rise, and at a pace faster than that of senior citizens.

Experts noted that the younger population in America is dealing with higher rates of obesity, hypertension, and high cholesterol levels, and the fact that many physicians are becoming more aggressive at treating these conditions. The data indicated that the use of cholesterol-lowering medications in the younger age group rose 68% over a 6-year period; the use of BPlowering medicine rose 21% in that same time frame.

Among the patients aged 65 years and older, the use of BP drugs went up only 9.5% and cholesterol drug use rose only 52%, but researchers stated the reasons behind the smaller increases were that half of these seniors were already taking hypertension medicine and more than 1 in 4 were taking cholesterol drugs. Although experts encourage younger patients to opt for lifestyle changes before deciding on medication, they are encouraged that these patients are acknowledging their need for help in lowering their BP and cholesterol levels and are taking more preventive measures.

New Links Found Between Cholesterol and AD

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have discovered data that help back the case for a potential cause of Alzheimer?s disease (AD). Their findings also represent the first time scientists have found a connection between early-onset AD and lateonset AD.

The researchers found that when amyloid-beta, the main ingredient of amyloid plaques in the brains of patients with AD, is made, a small bit of protein is also released that can regulate cholesterol levels in the brain. They stated that this supports the theory that abnormal brain cholesterol metabolism plays a role in the mental decline seen in patients with AD. The findings were reported in the October 2007 issue of the journal Neuron.

In the current study, the investigators found an aspect of cholesterol transport and metabolism in the brain was a link between early- and late-onset AD. Both forms of the disease result in similar brain lesions and have the same symptoms, including difficulty in communicating, learning, thinking, and reasoning, which suggest that they share underlying mechanisms as well.

The linking mechanism has not been identified until now, they said.

F A S T   F A C T : A high level of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (160 mg/dL and above) reflects an increased risk of heart disease.