Early treatment with Lipitor (atorvastatin), a “statin” cholesterol-lowering drug, reduces the build-up of artery-clogging plaque in patients who’ve had a recent heart attack, new research suggests.
“This is the first evidence that plaque can regress with early statin treatment in heart attack patients,” lead author Dr. Shinya Okazaki, from Juntendo University School of Medicine in Tokyo, said in a statement. “This evidence provides further support for the use of statins after a heart attack.”The study involved 70 patients who experienced a heart attack or related problem and were treated with atorvastatin or instructed to eat a cholesterol-lowering diet. The findings are reported in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation.During the 6-month study, levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol decreased by 42 percent in the Lipitor group, but rose by 1 percent in the diet group. Similarly, in Lipitor-treated patients, plaque size fell by 13 percent, while in diet-treated patients, the size increased by 9 percent.Further analysis showed that the drop in plaque size was related to the LDL cholesterol level at follow-up, and with the overall reduction in LDL cholesterol. This was observed even in patients with low LDL cholesterol levels from the start.”The positive effect of (Lipitor) was evident whether people went into the study with an LDL cholesterol above 125 mg/dL or not, indicating that this…therapy would be beneficial whether people who have heart attacks have very high cholesterol or not,” Okazaki noted.Further studies are needed to determine how Lipitor stabilize plaques and whether the benefits seen with Lipitor apply to other statins, the authors state.(SOURCE: Circulation: Reuters Health News: August 2004.)