Nov
09
2008

Another reason to push drugs?

Crestor: :Rosuvastatin
Crestor: :RosuvastatinCourtesy Mykhal
The drug company, AstraZenca, makes a drug called Crestor and also receives royalties from a particular blood test (hsCRP) which detects C-reactive protein (CRP), an indicator of infection.

AstraZenca funded a study which found that their product, Crestor, when given to patients identified as having infection via their blood test (hsCRP), "slashed the risk (of heart attack or stroke) of those flagged by the test by about half -- even if their cholesterol was normal".

Infection's role in cardiovascular risk

Why people with normal cholesterol levels suffered heart attacks or strokes has been puzzling. In the study,

either 20 milligrams of the statin Crestor or an inert placebo (was given) daily to 17,802 middle-aged and elderly men and women who had what are considered safe cholesterol levels but high CRP -- 2 milligrams per liter of blood or above.
(They)stopped the trial ... after an average follow-up of less than two years, concluding that the benefit was so striking that it would unethical to continue withholding the real drug from those taking the placebo.
Compared with those getting the placebo, those taking Crestor were 54 percent less likely to have a heart attack, 48 percent less to have a stroke, 46 percent less likely to need angioplasty or bypass surgery to open a clogged artery, 44 percent less likely to suffer any of those events and 20 percent less likely to die from any cause, the researchers reported yesterday. WashingtonPost

Costs, benefits, and alternatives

For every 1000 people in this study who took Crestor, there were about 2 who had heart attacks compared to about 4 in the placebo group (per year).

Some skeptics, however, argued that the actual risk reduction for an individual would be very small, given the relatively low risk for most middle-aged people, so the benefits easily could be outweighed by the costs of thousands more people taking tests and drugs and being monitored by doctors.

The risks from extended use of Crestor by millions of patients is unknown. We do know that lifestyle interventions are effective.

Join the discussion, learn more

Washington Post Staff Writer Rob Stein will be online Monday, Nov. 10 at 11 a.m. ET to discuss a new study that could transform efforts to prevent heart attacks and strokes. You can discuss whether you think drugs and money or lifestyle changes are best for our future there or in comments below.

Read the research paper: Rosuvastatin to Prevent Vascular Events in Men and Women with Elevated C-Reactive Protein

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

ARTiFactor's picture
ARTiFactor says:

Crestor costs $3.45 a day. Associated Press (viaMSNBC) has more info about this Crestor study.

Drs. James Stein and Jon Keevil of the University of Wisconsin-Madison used federal health statistics to project that 7.4 million Americans, or more than 4 percent of the adult population, are like the people in this study.

Treating them all with Crestor would cost $9 billion a year and prevent about 30,000 heart attacks, strokes or deaths, they calculate.

posted on Sun, 11/09/2008 - 3:49pm

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