MICHELE NORRIS, Host:
Good to have you here, Scott.
SCOTT HENSLEY: Hi.
NORRIS: First of all, tell us what the theory behind the study was.
HENSLEY: It has been known for decades that people with higher HDL, the good cholesterol, all other things being equal, have a lower risk of heart attacks; it was first seen in people in Japan who had a genetically higher HDL. And this study was one that looked at: Could you get the same sort of effect by raising the HDL with a drug? And it was expected that it would show that, and it didn't.
NORRIS: And why didn't it happen?
HENSLEY: There was no change in the heart attack risk for people in the study.
NORRIS: Now the drug that we're talking about has been on the market for quite some time, and there are a good number of people taking this drug. What are they supposed to do now that its effects are called into question?
HENSLEY: If you're concerned about it, talk with your doctors, but right now, the data are fairly fresh. They're going to look at them some more, but there's no reason to change practice now.
NORRIS: Who conducted this study and why?
HENSLEY: And the expectation was that by adding this drug that raises the HDL to the combination for the people, it would help them, and it did not.
NORRIS: In looking at the reaction to this today, it appears that this study is causing an overall re-thinking of how to prevent heart attacks. Is that an accurate reading of this?
HENSLEY: I think so because the drug industry and doctors have done such a good job at hammering into us lower your bad cholesterol and improve your chances of avoiding a heart attack or a repeat heart attack or stroke, something like that.
HDL: How can we lower the risk even more? And HDL was thought to be the logical way to do that.
NORRIS: Any early indication about how the makers of Niaspan will respond to this? And what does this mean for other drugs that are in the pipeline that are similar to this?
HENSLEY: But I think what this study will emphasize is that just changing a number of the kind of fat that's in someone's blood is not really going to be enough. Makers of new drugs to raise HDL will have to show beyond any doubt that the drugs actually help patients.
NORRIS: Scott Hensley edits our health blog. It's called "Shots." Scott, thank you very much for coming in.
HENSLEY: My pleasure.
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