Researchers have found that the drug Lipitor which is normally used to lower cholesterol, can cut the risk of a second stroke when used in double doses.
According to a trial conducted by doctors at the Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science in Chicago, by taking atorvastatin calcium (Lipitor), the risk of coronary events, such as heart attacks, was also reduced by 35 per cent.
Lipitor is one of a class of cholesterol fighting drugs known as statins, and it cut the overall risk of another stroke by about 16 percent over five years.
The doctors involved say the findings could change the way patients are treated after a stroke.
Apparently up to 40 per cent of people who have a stroke will have a second within five years and all too often the second stroke is worse, and results in disablement or death.
The trial involved 4,731 patients, with an average age of 63, who had had a stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA ) within one to six months before the start of the study but had no known coronary heart disease; they were randomly assigned to either 80 mg of atorvastatin per day or a placebo.
The researchers found that 218 of the 2,365 patients who took Lipitor developed an ischemic stroke, where blood flow to the brain is blocked, while 274 patients of the 2,366 patients who took the placebo developed the stroke.
With a stroke the arteries to the brain become blocked or ruptured resulting in the death of the brain tissue.
But the study also found that Lipitor appeared to increase the risk of hemorrhagic stroke, the less common form, caused by bleeding in the brain, by 67 percent.
There were 55 hemorrhagic strokes in the Lipitor group versus 33 in the placebo group.
Strokes are the third largest cause of death in the United States.
Thousands of stroke victims live with moderate to severe disabilities following the event.
Lipitor is manufactured by Pfizer who funded the trial.
The study is published in The New England Journal of Medicine.