Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Anti-cholesterol drug may reverse heart disease

Anti-cholesterol drug may reverse heart disease:

Doctors have found what they describe as the best evidence yet that heart disease can be reversed, and not just kept from getting worse.

That finding came Monday in a study in which people saw their 'bad cholesterol' reduced to the lowest levels ever seen -- and, as a result, had blockages in their blood vessels shrink.

Two-thirds of the 349 study participants had regression of coronary artery buildups when they took the maximum dose of Crestor -- which is the strongest of the cholesterol-lowering statin drugs on the market, though it's come under fire by the consumer group Public Citizen, which contends that the drug has more side effects than its competitors.

It's too soon to tell whether this shrinkage of artery blockages will result in fewer heart attacks.

Lowest 'that's ever been seen'

''The holy grail has always been to try to reverse the disease,'' and this study shows a way to do that, said Dr. Steven Nissen, the Cleveland Clinic cardiologist who led the research, whose results were released Monday by the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The researchers reported that Crestor trimmed the buildup of fat, calcium and other deposits in patients' arteries by as much as 9 percent.

Lipitor wasn't able to accomplish that in a similar study two years ago. Crestor also cut plaque-making cholesterol in the blood by 52.2 percent, to 60.8 milligrams per deciliter of blood.

''To my knowledge, this is the lowest cholesterol level that's ever been seen,'' Nissen said."

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