THURSDAY, June 9 (HealthDay News) -- The cholesterol-lowering drug Vytorin reduced the risk of heart disease among kidney patients by as much as 25 percent, according to the results of the largest kidney disease trial ever conducted.
"People with kidney disease are at a high risk of heart attack and strokes," explained study author Dr. Colin Baigent, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Oxford in the U.K. "But there are very few studies attempting to see how that risk can be reduced. In healthy people we know that lowering LDL, or 'bad,' cholesterol reduces the risk. But now this is the first study to show that lowering LDL among people with kidney disease reduces risk as well."
Baigent and his colleagues report on their research, which was funded in part by Vytorin maker Merck/Schering-Plough Pharmaceuticals, in the June 9 online issue of The Lancet. The findings were to be presented this week at the UK Renal Association and British Renal Society meeting being held this week in Birmingham, England.
Vytorin is a combination of Zetia (ezetimibe) and the statin Zocor (simvastatin). Yesterday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration called for warning labels on Zocor because of an increased risk of muscle damage that is seen among patients taking the highest dose -- 80 milligrams a day -- of that drug.
Baigent noted that although statins alone are known to be effective at lowering LDL, one of the challenges of treating kidney disease patients is that they do not process such drugs well, rendering high doses of statins potentially toxic. However, by pairing a relatively low dose of the statin Zocor with Zetia, the team hoped to achieve the same LDL-lowering effect while using a much lower dose of a statin.
"This is a rather neat trick," said Baigent, who struggled with kidney disease himself some three decades ago. "This combination produces the same LDL-
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