Inflammation reduced after just two weeks on statin drug

August 26, 2002

DALLAS, Aug. 27 - The cholesterol-lowering drug simvastatin reduces both cholesterol and an inflammation marker linked to heart disease within two weeks, according to a study in today's rapid access issue of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association. "Simvastatin caused a tremendous drop in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in just seven days, as we had expected, and also significantly reduced highly sensitive C-reactive protein (hsCRP) levels in 14 days. That finding was new," says Robert H. Eckel, M.D., professor of medicine, physiology and biophysics at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver and a co-author of the study.

"The speed with which simvastatin lowers hsCRP levels raises the question of whether statins may prove useful for the acute treatment of coronary events, much the way nitroglycerin is used in emergency rooms today," he says.

HsCRP is a marker of inflammation, and elevated levels are a risk factor for heart attack. Moreover, at the time of a heart attack, hsCRP levels increase dramatically. Recent research indicates that statins can significantly reduce hsCRP levels over time, but this is the first study to find a significant decrease in just two weeks, he says. Simvastatin and other statin drugs reduce cholesterol levels and the risk of heart disease events.

High hsCRP levels are associated with poor outcomes after a heart attack or procedures to open clogged arteries. "Perhaps we could reduce those complications by giving statins right after angioplasty in patients who otherwise did not meet the criteria for the drug," Eckel says.

In this study, 40 men and women with high LDL cholesterol were randomly assigned to one of two groups. One group received simvastatin for 14 days followed by placebo for 14 days; the other group received the placebo first, then simvastatin. The average LDL level in both groups, which was 162 milligrams/deciliter (mg/dL) at the start of the study, dropped 56 mg/dL by the seventh day of statin treatment, and a further 8 mg/dL by day 14. Their average hsCRP levels fell from 2.55 milligrams/liter (mg/L) to 1.60 mg/L by day 14. The drug's effect on inflammation was unrelated to its effect on cholesterol levels, indicating the drug may work through multiple mechanisms, says Eckel.

These results support those of earlier studies that found that statins appear to protect against first and recurrent heart attacks in patients with elevated hsCRP levels regardless of their cholesterol levels, he says.

Many researchers believe inflammation plays a role in heart attack and some forms of stroke, although the exact mechanism is still being debated. What seems clear is that inflammatory processes and heart disease often occur together, says Eckel.

Although this study looks at only one statin, it's likely that other drugs in the class have similar effects, he adds. Recent guidelines from the National Cholesterol Education Program call hsCRP an emerging risk factor for cardiovascular disease, Eckel says. Testing for hsCRP levels is not standard practice, but it can be done fairly easily and cheaply.

"I wouldn't promote its use on the basis of one study, but the evidence for its usefulness is increasing over time," he says. "The results of this study may have important long-term clinical implications by changing the way physicians manage all patients, both in the acute setting and in prevention of cardiovascular disease events."
-end-
Co-authors include lead author Julie K. Plenge, M.D.; Teri L. Hernandez, R.N., B.S.N.; Kathleen M. Weil, R.N., M.S.S.; Paul Poirier, M.D.; Gary K. Grunwald, Ph.D.; and Santica M. Marcovina, Ph.D.

The study was funded in part by Merck & Co.

CONTACT: For journal copies only,
please call: (214) 706-1396
For other information, call:
Carole Bullock: (214) 706-1279
Maggie Francis: (214) 706-1397

American Heart Association

Related Heart Disease Articles from Brightsurf:

Cellular pathway of genetic heart disease similar to neurodegenerative disease
Research on a genetic heart disease has uncovered a new and unexpected mechanism for heart failure.

Mechanism linking gum disease to heart disease, other inflammatory conditions discovered
The link between periodontal (gum) disease and other inflammatory conditions such as heart disease and diabetes has long been established, but the mechanism behind that association has, until now, remained a mystery.

New 'atlas' of human heart cells first step toward precision treatments for heart disease
Scientists have for the first time documented all of the different cell types and genes expressed in the healthy human heart, in research published in the journal Nature.

With a heavy heart: How men and women develop heart disease differently
A new study by researchers from McGill University has uncovered that minerals causing aortic heart valve blockage in men and women are different, a discovery that could change how heart disease is diagnosed and treated.

Heart-healthy diets are naturally low in dietary cholesterol and can help to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke
Eating a heart-healthy dietary pattern rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish, legumes, vegetable oils and nuts, which is also limits salt, red and processed meats, refined-carbohydrates and added sugars, is relatively low in dietary cholesterol and supports healthy levels of artery-clogging LDL cholesterol.

Pacemakers can improve heart function in patients with chemotherapy-induced heart disease
Research has shown that treating chemotherapy-induced cardiomyopathy with commercially available cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) delivered through a surgically implanted defibrillator or pacemaker can significantly improve patient outcomes.

Arsenic in drinking water may change heart structure raising risk of heart disease
Drinking water that is contaminated with arsenic may lead to thickening of the heart's main pumping chamber in young adults, according to a new study by researchers at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.

New health calculator can help predict heart disease risk, estimate heart age
A new online health calculator can help people determine their risk of heart disease, as well as their heart age, accounting for sociodemographic factors such as ethnicity, sense of belonging and education, as well as health status and lifestyle behaviors.

Wide variation in rate of death between VA hospitals for patients with heart disease, heart failure
Death rates for veterans with ischemic heart disease and chronic heart failure varied widely across the Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system from 2010 to 2014, which could suggest differences in the quality of cardiovascular health care provided by VA medical centers.

Heart failure: The Alzheimer's disease of the heart?
Similar to how protein clumps build up in the brain in people with some neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, protein clumps appear to accumulate in the diseased hearts of mice and people with heart failure, according to a team led by Johns Hopkins University researchers.

Read More: Heart Disease News and Heart Disease Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.