CHOLESTEROL WATCH

Pharmacy Times, Volume 0, 0

Statins May Boost Survival in Lung Disease Patients

Patients with chronic obstructive pulmonarydisease (COPD), which includesbronchitis and emphysema, may find achance for greater survival rates withthe use of statins. Researchers fromAkershus University Hospital inLorenskog, Norway, have found thatstatins can reduce the death rate inpatients with COPD whose conditionhas worsened.

Researchers tested the effect of statinson COPD patients because recent studiesshowed the drugs to be effective atreducing death rates among heart diseasepatients. They reasoned thatpatients with COPD had a subclinicalform of ischemic heart disease, andtherefore statins would be beneficial.

They monitored the impact of statinson 845 patients with COPD whose symptomshad worsened over a 3-year periodafter they were released from the hospital.The researchers found that the deathrate was 43% lower in those patients takingstatins than in those who did not.

Those patients who used statins aswell as inhaled corticosteroids to treattheir COPD symptoms showed evengreater survival rates than those whotook either medication alone. The findingswere reported in the February 2007issue of the European RespiratoryJournal

Women Who Lower Cholesterol Lower Stroke Risk

New research from Harvard University (Boston, Mass) showsthat women who lower their cholesterol levels also improvetheir chances of avoiding a stroke. Even otherwise healthywomen with no history of heart disease or stroke are still at ahigher risk for a stroke if they have high cholesterol thanwomen with lower cholesterol levels?more than 2 times. Thefindings were published in the February 20, 2007, issue ofNeurology.

Tobias Kurth, MD, the study's lead author and assistant professorin the Department of Epidemiology at Brigham andWomen's Hospital, stated that "some links between stroke andcholesterol have been reported in men and in populations athigh risk for or with high cardiovascular events. The findingshere for women are clearer, though, and show that even inapparently healthy women there's a risk."

The study looked at more than 27,000 women from theUnited States and Puerto Rico who were taking part in theWomen's Health Study. The women's cholesterol levels weremeasured at study start and monitored for an average of 11years. During this time, 9 of every 10,000 women had a strokeeach year. Researchers found that having a higher total cholesterollevel correlated to a 2.3-fold increase in stroke risk.

New Drug Battles Rare Condition

A small study by University of Pennsylvania investigatorsoffers a glimmer of hope to those who have inherited a rarecondition that results in lethal cholesterol accumulations intheir livers. The condition is known as homozygous familialhypercholesterolemia. Patients present with markedly elevatedcholesterol levels that respond poorly to regular drug therapies,and they run a very high risk of premature cardiovasculardisease.

An experimental drug, BMS-201038, was tested on 6patients with the inherited condition, which raises their low-densitylipoprotein (LDL) levels to between 400 and 600mg/dL, putting them at risk for heart attacks in their teens orearly 20s. The drug was shown to lower the LDL levels inthese patients by as much as 51%.

The drug works by blockading fats in the liver. Adverseeffects include accumulation of hepatic fat, which can causeinflammation, scarring, and cirrhosis. The findings werereported in the January 11, 2007, edition of the New EnglandJournal of Medicine.

Research Shows Benefit ofHigher HDL Levels

A study released in February 2007 emphasizes the importanceof raising levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol in thefight against hypercholesterolemia. Although many drugs touttheir ability to lower the "bad"cholesterol, or low-density lipoprotein(LDL), not much attention has been given to the benefits ofraising HDL. Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio have"learned that pushing up HDL confers a substantial proportion ofthe benefit."Their findings were published in the February 7, 2007,issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Evidence of the importance of raising HDL levels came from theanalysis of about 1500 patients taking part in 4 studies of LDL-loweringstatin medications. The research showed that the cloggedarteries of patients began to clear significantly when the statins notonly lowered their levels of LDL, but raised their HDL levels by upto 7.5%. The researchers said this is the first study to show thatpart of the benefit of statins is their power to raise HDL levels. Thechallenge now lies in finding a safe way to raise HDL levels evenmore.