Health Inc.

Now A Drug For People With Normal Cholesterol

Kidneys i i

How low can your heart risk go? (iStockphoto.com) hide caption

itoggle caption (iStockphoto.com)
Kidneys

How low can your heart risk go?

(iStockphoto.com)

The era of blockbuster medicines has been defined by drugs that help the worried well stave off illness.

Most people who take medicines to control blood pressure and cholesterol, for instance, aim to prevent heart attacks and strokes from striking. Then there's the prevention of osteoporosis by taking a pill to treat a mild thinning of the bones, the secret to Merck's success with Fosamax.

Now the bar for taking a cholesterol-fighting drug has been lowered to the point that there's a drug for some people with normal bad cholesterol.

That drug is Crestor, sold by AstraZeneca, and it costs about $4 a day. Similar generic drugs , such as simvastatin, can be had for $4 a month.

The Food and Drug Administration just gave the company permission to market the medicine for the prevention of heart attacks, strokes and even procedures like bypass surgery to keep blood flowing to heart muscle.

Even after the expansion, the drug isn't for everyone. Who's a candidate? There are three criteria:

 

  • Men age 50 and older; women 60 and up.
  • A poor score on a lab test called C-reactive protein, a measure of inflammation. The magic number, if you're interested, is more than 2 milligrams per liter of the stuff.
  • Finally, you also have to have another risk factor for cardiovascular disease, such as high blood pressure, not enough good cholesterol, smoking or a family history of early heart disease.

 

Crestor has been on the market since 2003. The FDA approved the expanded use for Crestor on evidence from a 18,000-person study, called Jupiter for short, that was stopped early because patients taking the drug had fewer cardiovascular problems than those taking sugar pills.

But the early halt may have overstated the benefits of the drug, some critics have said. For the details on that, check out the video interview with Dr. Gordon Guyatt, the guy whose Web page says he coined the term "evidence-based medicine," by CurrentMedicine.TV.

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