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Study: Cholesterol drugs reduce clots

Study may provide new reason for people to take the medicines

ORLANDO, Fla. – Statin drugs, taken by millions of Americans to lower cholesterol and prevent heart disease, also can cut the risk of developing dangerous blood clots that can lodge in the legs or lungs, a major study suggests.

The results provide a new reason for many people with normal cholesterol to consider taking these medicines, sold as Crestor, Lipitor, Zocor and in generic form, doctors say.

In the study, Crestor cut nearly in half the risk of blood clots in people with low cholesterol but high scores on a test for inflammation, which plays a role in many diseases. This same big study last fall showed Crestor dramatically lowered rates of heart attacks, death and stroke in these people, who are not usually given statins now.

“It might make some people who are on the fence decide to go on statins,” although blood-clot prevention is not the drugs’ main purpose, said Dr. Mark Hlatky, a Stanford University cardiologist who had no role in the study.

Results were reported Sunday at the American College of Cardiology conference and published online by the New England Journal of Medicine.

The study was led by statistician Robert Glynn and Dr. Paul Ridker of Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Ridker is a co-inventor on a patent of the test for high-sensitivity C-reactive protein, or CRP. It is a measure of inflammation, which can mean clogged arteries or less serious problems, such as an infection or injury. It costs about $80 to have the blood test done. The government does not recommend it be given routinely, but federal officials are reconsidering that.

For the study, researchers in the U.S. and two dozen other countries randomly assigned 17,802 people with high CRP and low levels of LDL, or bad cholesterol (below 130), to take dummy pills or Crestor, a statin made by British-based AstraZeneca PLC.

With an average of two years of follow-up, 34 of those on Crestor and 60 of the others developed venous thromboembolism – a blood clot in the leg that can travel to the lungs. Several hundred thousand Americans develop such clots each year, leading to about 100,000 deaths. But this is uncommon compared to the larger number who suffer heart attacks.

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