Cholesterol Drugs May Help After Bleeding Stroke
Blood Vessel Problem in Brain May Be Rarer in Survivors Taking Statins
July 28, 2005 -- Statin drugs, which lower cholesterol, may have a benefit
for survivors of strokes caused by bleeding in the brain.
Two small studies tested statins on people who had a stroke caused by
bleeding in the brain -- called a subarachnoid hemorrhage.
Thirty-five percent of patients with subarachnoid hemorrhages die in the
first 24 hours, says researcher John Lynch, MD, in a news release.
Patients taking statins fared better than those given a fake drug
(placebo).They were less likely to have prolonged constriction of brain blood
vessels after their brain hemorrhage.
The prolonged constriction, called cerebral vasospasm, is common with
bleeding in the brain and may lead to another stroke.
Longer, larger studies should be done, write the researchers in
A Leading Killer
Strokes are the No. 3 cause of death and a leading cause of severe,
long-term disability in the U.S. Every year, nearly 700,000 Americans have a
stroke. That's about one stroke every 45 seconds, states the web site of the
American Stroke Association (ASA).
Strokes can happen when a blood vessel is clogged (ischemic stroke) or when
a blood vessel breaks, bleeding into the brain (hemorrhagic stroke).
Most strokes are ischemic strokes. By curbing cholesterol that can clog
blood vessels, statin drugs help avoid ischemic strokes.
Doctors already knew that. The new studies focused on patients who had had
the rarer hemorrhagic strokes.
Stroke Warning Signs
The ASA lists these stroke warning signs:
- Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg, especially on one
side of the body.
- Sudden confusion, trouble with speaking, or trouble with understanding
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Sudden dizziness, loss of balance or coordination, or trouble with
- Sudden, severe headache with no known cause is more common after a
Get medical help immediately at any sign of stroke. Prompt treatment can
make a big difference, and some medications must be given within a short time
British Stroke Study
The larger study -- with 80 patients -- was done in the U.K. Patients got
Lipostat (a British version of the statin drug Pravachol) or a placebo. The
statin was made by Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., a WebMD sponsor.
The pills were taken for up to 14 days, starting within 72 hours of brain
bleeding. Patients taking Lipostat had 32% fewer blood vessel constrictions in
the brain than those taking the placebo.
Blood vessel constriction was also shortened by nearly one day with the
statin group, researchers write. They included Ming-Yuan Tseng, MD, MPhil, MSc,
of the neurosurgery department at Addenbrooke's Hospital at the University of
The second study -- done in the U.S. -- was smaller, with 39 patients. It
compared another statin, Zocor, with a placebo. Researchers including John
Lynch, MD, of Duke University's medical school conducted the study.
Zocor was given to 19 patients; the others got a placebo. Patients took the
pills for 14 days, starting within 48 hours of their brain hemorrhage.
The Zocor group had fewer blood vessel constrictions than the placebo group.
The problem was seen in five of the 19 patients taking Zocor and 12 out of the
20 taking the placebo.
Zocor is made by Merck & Co., a WebMD sponsor.
The results may pave the way for bigger studies on the topic, write the