Statins reduce heart attack deaths by 50%

According to a U.S. study, giving a heart attack patient a statin drug as soon as possible reduces the chance he or she will die by 50 percent.

This new study suggests that Statin drugs which are used to lower cholesterol levels and prevent strokes and heart attacks long-term, might join aspirin as something to give to patients immediately when they suffer a heart attack.

Cardiologist Dr. Gregg Fonarow of the University of California, Los Angeles, who led the study, says they knew that long-term statin therapy was beneficial, but this study provides the strongest clinical evidence yet which supports the early cardioprotective effects of statins immediately following a heart attack.

Fonarow says that as statins are already routinely started in myocardial infarction patients prior to hospital discharge, it would be relatively easy to administer this medication on arrival to the emergency department.

In their study Fonarow and colleagues looked at the records of more than 170,000 heart attack patients.

They found that those given statin drugs before hospitalization and within 24 hours after a heart attack had a 54 percent lower risk of dying in the hospital compared to patients not on statin therapy.

It was seen that patients who had not been prescribed statins in the past but were given one within 24 hours of hospitalization were 58 percent less likely to die.

Fonarow says they were surprised that early statin therapy had such a striking effect immediately after a heart attack.

They also found that statins provided additional protection from other heart attack complications such as cardiac arrest, cardiac shock, cardiac rupture and ventricular fibrillation.

Statins lower cholesterol levels but they also affect the linings of the blood vessels.

They raise levels of nitric oxide, which in turn may reduce the inflammation associated with heart attacks.

The study was funded by Genentech which does not currently make a statin drug but which helps support the registry of patients used for the study.

Fonarow has done research for several companies that make statins.

The study is published in the September issue of the American Journal of Cardiology.

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