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Hit 'em Hard and Fast: Statins Early After Heart Attack Improve Outcomes, Save Lives

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Although the study clearly demonstrates the benefit of getting statins early after a heart attack, heart specialists still are unsure of how much statin these patients need. "This is a very aggressive [high] dose," says Francis, who is a professor of medicine at Ohio State University School of Medicine. Francis points out that the drug used in the study -- Lipitor -- is the most powerful statin currently available. "Typically, a patient would be started on 10 or 20 mg of [Lipitor]," he says.

And although Francis raises questions about the high dose of Lipitor given to patients in this study, he says, "It is very reassuring that there were no adverse events associated with this dose. It appears to be very well tolerated and safe."

Schwartz points out that after several weeks, it may be possible for heart attack patients to take a lower dose of the statin with similar results, although that has not been studied. "I'm not saying that a patient should be maintained on 80 mg for chronic treatment," he says. "I think that after a few months -- in this case four months -- the patient can be evaluated and a lower dose could be initiated."

The study was supported by a grant from Pfizer Inc. Schwartz is a paid consultant to Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, maker of Lipitor.

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