Drug can halve heart attacks in the healthy: Statins give 'unprecedented' cut in risk, say doctors


Crestor: Already available on NHS

A drug has been found to cut the risk of heart attacks by almost half in 'healthy' people, researchers say today. 

Treatment with Crestor, a cholesterol-busting statin, cut the rate of heart problems and deaths from strokes by 46 per cent when compared with a dummy pill. 

Crestor is already available on the NHS but is not licensed for patients without 'traditional' heart disease risk factors. 

The trial involved people with high levels of protein linked to heart disease but who were not yet considered at sufficiently high risk to qualify for treatment under current guidelines. 

More than four million Britons regularly take statins to control cholesterol levels, with 80 per cent using the cheapest generic drug, simvastatin, costing just £1.42 a month.

Crestor, also known as rosuvastatin, which is made by AstraZeneca, costs £26 a month at a 20mg dose. 

Full results were presented last October at the American Heart Association's scientific meeting, while details on a subgroup of women were released yesterday at this year's meeting. 

These showed that the benefits for 9,000 women aged 60 and over were similar to those for 9,000 men taking part in the same study. 

Dr Sarah Jarvis, a spokesman for the Royal College of General Practitioners on women's health, said: 'Cardiovascular disease can be mistaken as an "old man's" disease, while unfortunately the evidence suggests that people are suffering
cardiovascular events younger and more women are at risk of developing the disease.

'There has long been support for the wider use of statins in women, but we didn't have the data to support these recommendations. 

'This level of risk reduction among women has never been seen before in a primary prevention statin outcome trial.'

The Jupiter study showed heart attacks were cut by 54 per cent, strokes by 48 per cent and the need for angioplasty or bypass was cut by 46 per cent compared with a placebo. Levels of 'bad' cholesterol were halved. 

Experts say the results would not necessarily be found with other statins because some work differently. 

Men are at greater risk of heart attacks and strokes in middle age, but women catch up after the age of 60.

A new drive is planned by GPs in which adults aged 40-74 will be invited for a health check to identify heart and stroke risk, as well as kidney disease.

Anyone believed to have a 20 per cent risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke over the next ten years will be eligible for statins. 

It is thought that 15million people will benefit from the checks, which could see statin prescriptions rise by 30 per cent a year. 

It is estimated the campaign will prevent a further 15,000 heart 'events' a year, such as heart attacks and strokes, in addition to the 7,000 heart attacks already being prevented. 

Patients who have already suffered a heart attack or stroke, or have diabetes, are covered by NHS guidelines on secondary prevention which recommend statins.

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