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Low-Cost Drugs Prevent Heart Attack, Stroke

Study Shows Generic Statins and Blood Pressure Drugs Cut Risk of Hospitalization
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Reducing Risk of Heart Attacks and Strokes

The risk reduction in heart attacks and strokes varied by group and how faithfully participants took the medications.

Compared with the no-exposure group, the low-exposure group (whose members picked up medicines less than half the time) had a 60% reduction in hospitalizations for heart attack and stroke.

''People who picked up the medicine more than half the time had more than a 60% reduction in heart attack and stroke in the third year of follow-up," says Marc Jaffe, MD, director of the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Cardiovascular Risk Reduction Program, who oversaw more than half the study participants.

Among the 21,292 people in the high-exposure group, there were 545 fewer heart attacks and strokes. That translates to a reduction in the hospitalization rate for heart attack or stroke by 26 per 1,000 members compared to those who had no exposure to the drug.

The approach, Jaffe and Dudl say, focused less on adjusting doses, which saves time and the number of office visits for doctors and patients. "It was a focus on starting at a reasonable, fixed dose that would work for most people," Jaffe tells WebMD. That dose was adjusted when needed, however, he says.

''The simplicity [of the approach] makes it easier for people to deal with," Dudl says. Typically, patients are told to start the drugs at a low dose, then asked to come back in three or four weeks for monitoring.

Side effects, such as muscle aches with statins, were found in about the same numbers as in studies in which participants took the drugs separately, Dudl says.

The approach used in the Kaiser study is simple and doesn't require frequent doctor's office visits or blood tests, says Ravi Dave, MD, a cardiologist at Santa Monica--UCLA and Orthopaedic Hospital in Santa Monica, Calif., and associate professor of medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles David Geffen School of Medicine, who reviewed the study for WebMD.

"This [study] establishes the safety and efficacy of this approach," he says. "It's good for patients, with their busy lives.''

The study, he adds, also supports the concept of cholesterol lowering in high-risk patients whose cholesterol levels may be deemed acceptable for the general population, but not for high-risk people.

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