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Cholesterol-lowering Drug Effective at Halting Early Atherosclerosis

An international study using ultrasound technology has found that the most potent cholesterol-lowering drug is also effective at halting// early changes in the blood vessels that can lead to atherosclerosis.

“Rosuvastatin arrested the progression of thickened carotid arteries compared to a placebo,” said John R.Crouse, M.D., lead researcher and a professor of endocrinology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine. “The findings show that the benefits of cholesterol management on arteries can be extended to low-risk patients.”

Results from the study were reported today at the annual meeting of the American College of Cardiology in New Orleans and will appear in the March 28 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. The research involved people with moderately elevated cholesterol levels who didn’t qualify for treatment under national guidelines.

Participants all had minimal thickening of their carotid arteries, which supply blood to the brain, and were considered at low risk for having a heart attack or dying from a heart-related event based on their age and other risk factors.

Over a two-year period, the therapy lowered low-density lipoprotein, or “bad” cholesterol, by 49 percent and increased high density lipoprotein, or “good” cholesterol, by 8 percent. Triglycerides were reduced by 16 percent and the progression of artery thickness was halted.

Rosuvastatin (sold under the trade name Crestor) is the newest member of a family of drugs known as statins that work to lower levels of cholesterol and other fats in the blood. Other statins have been tested – with similar results – in patients who’ve already had a heart attack or who had high cholesterol levels. This was the first study to evaluate Crestor in a group of people at low risk for heart attacks.

“Atherosclerosis is often advanced before symptoms appear and it hasn’t been clear whether treatment of low-risk individuals
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