Cholesterol Lowering Drugs Stall Disease Progression In People With Below-Average Blood Cholesterol Level

ing, by whatever means, would have a beneficial effect on the atherosclerosis. But the specific results that we have are for cholesterol lowering with pravastatin. I think it would probably be unwise to generalize much further beyond that," MacMahon says.

Pravastatin is one of a group of cholesterol-lowering drugs known as HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors. They work by interfering with the body's natural ability to make cholesterol.

The new findings have implications for treating patients with average or low cholesterol but who have an elevated risk of heart attack, the nation's leading cause of death, and stroke, the third leading cause of death and the leading cause of serious, long-term disability, he says.

The study was carried out in Auckland, using 522 participants from a larger study of New Zealand and Australian coronary heart disease patients called LIPID (Long-term Intervention with Pravastatin in Ischemic Disease). LIPID ended last summer after six years, a year earlier than planned, when it was found pravastatin lowered the risk of death without causing harm to patients.

MacMahon and his colleagues undertook the smaller study, known as the LIPID Atherosclerosis Substudy, to determine if reducing blood cholesterol in people with low or average levels would reduce the development of atherosclerosis. "At the time we started the study, there was great uncertainty about whether it would be beneficial to lower cholesterol in people who have average cholesterol," MacMahon says. "There really was very little evidence, and of course, most patients with coronary heart disease have cholesterol levels that are fairly average."

Co-authors of the paper are Norman Sharpe, M.D.; Greg Gamble, M.Sc.; Hamish Hart, M.B.; John Scott, M.D.; John Simes, M.D.; and Harvey White, D.Sc.


Contact: Carole Bullock
American Heart Association

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