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Cholesterol Drug's Extra Kick

A drug proven to reduce cholesterol also appears to battle another enemy: inflammation inside the arteries.

The findings were contained in a study led by Dr. Paul Ridker, a cardiologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. It was published in Tuesday's issue of Circulation, a journal of the American Heart Association.

His team studied pravastatin, one of a class of cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins, for its ability to reduce levels of a protein that is elevated during inflammation. Inflammation can cause a heart artery to become clogged.

The researchers followed 472 men who had suffered a heart attack, stroke or clot and then had no major coronary events for the next five years.

They found that levels of the protein C-reactive protein, or CRP were as much as 38 percent lower in the men who took pravastatin compared with those who received a placebo. Even when patients in the placebo group lowered their "bad" cholesterol through diet and exercise, CRP increased over time.

Ridker noted that all the patients also were taking aspirin, which has shown to be good for the heart and circulation and may have contributed to reducing inflammation.

An earlier study led by Ridker found that people with high levels of CRP were three times more likely to suffer a first heart attack than those with low CRP levels.

Dr. Valentin Fuster of Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, who was not involved in the study, said the findings suggest statins benefit patients in several ways.

"We have tended to think the reason the statins are so good is that they lower blood cholesterol levels," said Fuster, past president of the American Heart Association. "This research probably means the use of statins can be successful in the prevention of disease by counteracting inflammation."

The research did not determine whether other statins reduce inflammation.

Written By Troy Goodman

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