CHOLESTEROL WATCH

Pharmacy Times, Volume 0, 0

Statins May Protect Smokers' Lungs

A study presented at the AmericanCollege of Chest Physicians' annualmeeting in October 2006 showed thatcurrent and former smokers who usedstatins to lower their cholesterol hadless decline in lung function than thosewho did not take statins, suggestingthat statins may protect smokers fromserious lung damage. Researchers fromthe University of Oklahoma in OklahomaCity studied 182 current smokersand 303 former smokers, with anaverage age of 66 years; of the total,238 received statins. Of all the participants,319 had obstructive lung disease(LD), 99 had restrictive LD, and 67 hadnormal lung function.

Over the study follow-up period, itwas found that patients who receivedstatin therapy showed less decline in 2markers of lung function, comparedwith those who did not receive statins.Researchers stated that the differencewas "highly significant," and they alsonoted that patients with obstructive LDwho used statins had a 35% drop in therate of respiratory-related hospitalizationsand emergency room visits. Leadresearcher Walid G. Younis, MD,warned, however, that they found "nodifference in lung cancer or in mortalitybetween the patients who smoked andwere on statins or not on statins."

Healthy Levels Could Reduce Prostate Cancer Risk

Researchers with the Clinical Prostate Cancer Program atNorthwestern University's Robert H. Lurie ComprehensiveCancer Center in Chicago, Ill, are finding evidence that mightlink prostate cancer in men to their cholesterol levels and suggestthat lowering the levels could lower the risk of the cancer.They cited recent epidemiologic studies that found that menwho took statins also had a lower risk of prostate cancer.Furthermore, these studies show that those patients whowere diagnosed with the cancer had a lower risk of having amore aggressive form of cancer if they were taking statins.

One such study was conducted in association with theDepartment of Epidemiology at Johns Hopkins BloombergSchool of Public Health in Baltimore, Md. The study followed34,000 men for 10 years and recorded their statin use every 2years. At the start of the study, none of the men had prostatecancer. The study found that men who took statins had half therisk of advanced prostate cancer and one third the risk ofmetastatic cancer, compared with those who did not use thedrugs. The findings were presented at the annual meeting ofthe American Association for Cancer Research.

Study Doubts Significance of Ultralow Cholesterol Goals

A study conducted by theUniversity of Michigan HealthSystem and Veterans Affairs (VA)Ann Arbor Healthcare Systemsuggests that there may be notrue evidence that very low levelsof low-density lipoprotein(LDL) cholesterol can benefitpeople at high risk for heart disease.They propose that thesepatients should be encouragedto use statins to reduce theirrisk. Past studies had recommendedthat some high-riskpatients should strive to keeptheir LDL cholesterol level below70 mg/dL, even if it meant havingto take numerous medications.After reviewing research on LDLcholesterol and heart health,however, the researchers declaredthat they found no scientificevidence to support theultralow LDL goal.

"Current practice guidelinesand recommendations oftenfocus on getting LDL as low aspossible, but the literature todate doesn't demonstrate thatlow LDL is what is truly important—but it does show thatstatins save lives in high-cardiacriskpatients, regardless of a person'sLDL level," stated RodneyHayward, MD, director of the VACenter for Health Services Researchand Development. Thestudy was published in theOctober 2006 issue of the journalAnnals of Internal Medicine.

Statins Found to Aid Heart Failure Patients

A major study showed that statin drugs can cut therisk of hospitalization and death for heart failure patientswith high cholesterol. Past studies had suggested thatthe use of statins might actually worsen the condition forheart failure patients, but the findings of this recent study"found quite the opposite,"according to Alan S. Go, MD,lead author of the study report. The findings were reportedin the November 1, 2006, issue of the Journal of theAmerican Medical Association.

Dr. Go stated that the study was done because of thepast negative reports of statin performance in heart failurepatients. "On the basis of our findings, we would say thatif people meet current treatment criteria for statin treatment,even if they have heart failure, you can safely give itand should give it," he said. Almost 25,000 patients withheart failure and no prior statin use were studied. Abouthalf of these were started on statin therapy due to theircholesterol levels. The rate of hospitalization during the2.4-yr study was 21% lower for those taking statins thanfor those who did not, and the death rate was 24% lower.