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Should Cholesterol Drugs Be Used By Those Without High Cholesterol?
Date:4/2/2010

Some experts say statins help healthier people, but others worry about risks

FRIDAY, April 2 (HealthDay News) -- When the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in February approved the use of the cholesterol-lowering statin drug Crestor for some people with normal cholesterol levels, cardiologist Dr. Steven E. Nissen cheered the decision.

"You have to go with the scientific evidence," said Nissen, who is chairman of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic. "A clinical trial was done and there was a substantial reduction in morbidity and mortality in people treated with this drug."

But Dr. Mark A. Hlatky, a professor of health research and policy and medicine at Stanford University, has expressed doubts about the FDA move. He worries that more people will rely on a pill rather than diet and exercise to cut their heart risk, and also points to studies linking statins such as Crestor to muscle troubles and even diabetes.

"I haven't seen anything that changes my mind about that," Hlatky said.

So, will millions of healthy Americans soon join the millions of less-than-healthy people who already take these blockbuster drugs?

The FDA's Feb. 9 approval of expanded use of rosuvastatin (Crestor) was based on results of the JUPITER study, which involved more than 18,000 people and was financed by the drug's maker, AstraZeneca. People in the trial who took the drug for an average of 1.9 years had a 44 percent lower risk of heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular problems compared to those who took a placebo -- results so outstanding that the trial was cut short. Based on JUPITER, an FDA advisory committee voted 12 to 4 in December to approve widened use of the drug.

The people in the trial included men over 50 and women over 60 with normal or near-normal cholesterol levels. However, these individuals did have high levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation that has als
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