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Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs Safe for Long-Term Use, Study Finds
Date:11/23/2011

By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Nov. 22 (HealthDay News) -- British researchers have good news for anyone taking the cholesterol-lowering medications known as statins: These drugs are effective and safe, even when used for long periods of time, they say.

The 11-year study found that simvastatin (brand name Zocor) reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease by almost one-quarter. In addition, the researchers found no increase in illness or deaths from cancer or other non-vascular causes.

"All those at increased vascular risk should start taking statins early and continue taking them long term," said the study's lead author, Dr. Richard Bulbulia, a consultant vascular surgeon and research fellow in the clinical trial service unit at the University of Oxford in England.

"This will maximize the reductions in heart attacks, strokes and other vascular diseases, and is safe," said Bulbulia, who added that the study's findings should provide reassurance to physicians and their patients.

There are numerous other drugs in this class of medication, and Bulbulia said, "it seems reasonable to assume that [this study's findings] should hold true for other currently prescribed statins." Other commonly used statins include Lipitor, Crestor and Mevacor.

Results of the study are published in the Nov. 23 online issue of The Lancet. Funding for the study was provided by the U.K. Medical Research Council, the British Heart Foundation, Merck & Co. (manufacturer of Zocor) and Roche Vitamins.

The study looked at the long-term safety of simvastatin because some research suggested that the rates of some cancers and non-vascular health conditions were increased in people who had lower levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol.

Initially, the study recruited more than 20,500 people who had a high risk of heart disease and other cardiovascular problems for a trial of simvastatin versus a place
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