Heart drug could reduce heart attacks

Cardiologists everywhere are talking about a new study showing the statin drug Crestor reduced the risk of heart attack by 54 percent in people with normal or even low cholesterol levels.

"This will change the way we manage our patients that we didn't think were at risk before and now we have some evidence that we can do something for these patients," said Dr. David Lee, M.D., a cardiovascular specialist at Stanford University Medical Center.

It's an important breakthrough because half of strokes and heart attacks happen in people not considered at risk. The American College of Cardiology alerted its members to the breakthrough yesterday. Now the research is spreading on the internet and reaching people like Brenna Peavia.

"Instead of just checking your high and low cholesterol, there's one other component that's a protein that you need to check," said Peavia, from San Jose.

The simple blood test measures inflammation, specifically testing for high sensitivity C reactive protein or CRP for short.

Many doctors including those at South Valley Cardiovascular Group say they'll immediately begin offering the relatively inexpensive test to their patients and looking for elevated results.

"I think the majority of cardiologists will use it initially because the weight of evidence, the preponderance seems to be so good," said Norman Lowenbraun, M.D., a cardiologist.

At least one cardiologist at Stanford Medical Center however is urging caution in prescribing Crestor and other statin drugs to a much wider patient base generally considered low risk.

"Every individual needs to weigh the benefits of the drug treatment and potential benefits against the real risk, known and unknown, and the costs which can be quite real," said Mark Hlatky, M.D., a Stanford University Cardiologist.

The drug used in the study costs about a $100 a month. Cardiologists say for the right patient in the right age range, the treatment could be a lifesaver.

"I think the thing is we would start to implement these rather quickly, probably even tomorrow if we really wanted to," said Dr. Lee.

Many cardiologists predict the research will have a dramatic impact in preventive care.


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