March 30, 2009 (Orlando, Fla.) -- In the latest study to show that cholesterol-lowering statin drugs are good for more than just the heart, daily therapy with the statin drug Crestor cut the risk of blood clots in the veins by more than 40%.
The benefits of stains in warding off a condition called venous thromboembolism (VTE) emerged from a new analysis of data in the landmark JUPITER study. The study showed that the drugs halve the risk of major cardiovascular events for people with normal cholesterol levels but high levels of a blood marker of inflammation called CRP.
"When statins were first introduced, we only knew that they prevented heart attacks. Then, we found they reduce the risk of stroke, too. Now we have the added benefit of reducing the risk of VTE as well," says researcher Robert J. Glynn, PhD, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
About 600,000 Americans develop VTE each year, and 100,000 die. VTE includes deep vein thrombosis (DVT), in which clots form in the deep veins, often in the legs, and pulmonary embolism, a potentially fatal condition in which blood clots travel through veins to the lungs.
In contrast, statins carry "no bleeding hazard at all," says JUPITER trial chairman Paul Ridker, MD, a cardiologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.
While no one is sure exactly how statins lower clot risk, Glynn says they may act as an anticoagulant.
Claudio Schuger, MD, a heart specialist at Wayne State University in Detroit, says that while only Crestor was studied, other statin drugs probably also confer protection against VTE. Schuger was co-chair of the committee that chose which studies to highlight at the meeting.
But people shouldn't take statins just for their VTE-preventing properties, Schuger tells WebMD.
Reduction in VTE Risk
JUPITER involved 17,802 apparently healthy men and women with LDL "bad" cholesterol levels of less than 130 milligrams per deciliter and moderately elevated high-sensitivity CRP levels of 2 milligrams per liter or higher.
Half the study participants were treated with 20 milligrams per day of Crestor and half took a placebo.
Over a median follow-up of 1.9 years, 34 participants in the Crestor group and 60 in the placebo group developed VTE. That translates to a 43% reduction in risk in the group taking the statin.
Similar benefits were seen in people who had risk factors for VTE, including cancer, recent hospitalization, or surgery, and those who did not have risk factors.
Additionally, Crestor was associated with a significant 55% reduction in risk of DVT and a 23% reduction in pulmonary embolism, although the latter finding could have been due to chance.
A second analysis, also presented at the meeting and simultaneously published online in The Lancet, showed that in terms of reduced cardiovascular risks, patients do best if both their LDL and CRP levels drop.
Compared with participants given placebo, those taking Crestor who achieved target levels of LDL less than 70 milligrams per liter and CRP less than 2 milligrams per liter were 65% less likely to have a major cardiovascular event.
In contrast, people treated with Crestor who did not achieve one or both of these target levels achieved only a 36% reduction in risk.