Statins for Blood Thinning and Heart Disease
The class of drugs known as "statins" have long been used to lower cholesterol in folks at risk for a heart attack or stroke. They work well, at a reasonable cost, and the side effects are generally well-understood.
Now one of the statins, Crestor, has been shown to do something that no other drug has ever done: reverse heart disease.
Over a two-year study financed by its manufacturer, the drug was shown to be effective in what statins are well-known to do. Crestor reduced low-density lipoprotein -- the bad cholesterol -- in blood by more than 53 percent, while increasing the good cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein) by almost 15 percent.
But the study, published online by the Journal of the American Medical Association, also showed something else. According to Dr. Steven Nissen, the study's lead author, Crestor actually shrank plaques in coronary arteries by a small but significant amount.
Those are the fatty deposits -- filled with cholesterol -- that can eventually strangle the heart's blood supply, leading to a heart attack, this country's No. 1 killer. The Cleveland Clinic study showed that Crestor reduced those deposits by a few percentage points, and that the reductions occurred in a majority of patients.
The study's findings are especially compelling because new statins on the horizon promise even bigger changes in cholesterol levels, which might translate into bigger effects on heart disease.