TUESDAY, March 22 (HealthDay News) -- Use of a class of cholesterol-lowering drugs called fibrates is on the rise in the United States despite research that suggests they may not do much to improve health, researchers say.
Fibrates are often prescribed to people with low levels of HDL ("good") cholesterol and high levels of triglycerides, a harmful form of fat circulating in the blood, experts explained.
The new study isn't questioning the ability of fibrates to lower triglycerides, said lead study author Cynthia A. Jackevicius, an associate professor of pharmacy at Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona, Calif. Fibrates have also been shown to have a "modest" effect on raising HDL cholesterol. (Statins, another hugely popular family of cholesterol drugs that includes brands such as Lipitor and Zocor, are used to lower LDL, or "bad, cholesterol.)
The real question, according to the study authors, is whether any decline in blood fats linked to fibrate use translates to a benefit to users' health.
They point to two recent large trials conducted in people with diabetes that found that taking fenofibrate, one type of fibrate, did not lower the risk of having a heart attack or dying compared to taking statins alone.
Fenofibrate is sold in a generic form and under the brand names Tricor, Antara, Lipofen and Triglide, among others, the researchers said.
"In some recent studies, the fibrates, particularly fenofibrate, was not found to reduce the chances of having a heart attack or of saving lives," Jackevicius said. "Just because the medicine may improve the cholesterol profile doesn't mean it also decreases the chance of a heart attack or death."
The study is published in the March 23/30 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
There is some research on fibrates that has shown a benefit in warding off heart att
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