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    Tuesday, June 03, 2003

    Those Amazing Statins: The cholesterol-lowering drugs that are the darlings of cardiologists everywhere, the statins, are in the news again. Now they’re claiming to improve the health of kidney transplant patients:

    Experts say the study, published Tuesday on the Web site of The Lancet medical journal, provides important evidence that statin drugs can improve the health of kidney transplant patients, who are often vulnerable to heart trouble.

    A total of 1,788 kidney transplant patients completed the international study led by scientists at the National Hospital in Oslo, Norway. About half were given the statin drug fluvastatin, or Lescol, and the other half got a fake pill.

    After five years, there were 70 heart attacks in the statin group, compared with 104 among those taking the placebos.

    The risk of a fatal heart attack was 38 percent lower among those taking the drug, compared with those taking the dummy pill, while the risk of a non-lethal heart attack was 32 percent lower in the group taking the statin.

    But wait a minute. That’s not what the study (registration required) says:

    After a mean follow-up of 5.1 years, fluvastatin lowered LDL cholesterol concentrations by 32%. Risk reduction with fluvastatin for the primary endpoint [a heart attack, fatal or nonfatal -ss]...was not significant, although there were fewer cardiac deaths or non-fatal MI... in the fluvastatin group than in the placebo group. Coronary intervention procedures and other secondary endpoints did not differ significantly between groups.

    So, the difference between the two groups could have been due to chance and not to the drug. The authors even take pains to make this clear in their conclusion:

    Although cardiac deaths and non-fatal MI seemed to be reduced, fluvastatin did not generally reduce rates of coronary intervention procedures or mortality. Overall effects of fluvastatin were similar to those of statins in other populations.

    So, why are these “experts” quoted by the Associated Press making such a big deal about the findings? One expert is Dr. Jules Puschett, identified as a spokesperson for the American Heart Association. No surprise there. The AHA is a shameless booster for statins as miracle drugs. They’d put them in the water supply if they could get a way with it. The other expert is Sir Charles George, head of the AHA’s British cousin - the British Heart Foundation. Evidently, statin boosterism is just as rampant among British cardiologists. But you would think they would at least read the abstract of the paper in question before commenting about it to the press, wouldn’t you?

    posted by Sydney on 6/03/2003 07:14:00 AM 0 comments


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