Treatment of Both HDL, LDL Cholesterol Levels More Effective, Study Finds
Taking a combination of drugs designed to reduce so-called bad cholesterol and raise so-called good cholesterol is more effective at lowering the progression of heart disease than taking either medicine alone, according to the first study to test the dual approach, the AP/Lexington Herald-Leader reports. According to the AP/Herald-Leader, LDL, or "bad" cholesterol, has "long been the focus of treatment" with statin drugs. However, research has shown that raising HDL -- or "good" -- cholesterol, which helps remove fats from the blood, might be as important or more important than lowering LDL cholesterol (Marchione, AP/Lexington Herald-Leader, 11/11).
The new study, published in the journal Circulation and released Wednesday at the American Heart Association conference in New Orleans, involved 149 participants who had experienced a heart attack or had other signs of hardened arteries. All of the participants had been taking statins for more than one year, and their LDL cholesterol levels averaged 89 -- "well below the recommended 100 upper limit," according to the AP/New York Times. However, their HDL cholesterol averaged about 40, below the lower recommended limit of 60. Researchers randomized the participants to take either statins alone or statins plus Kos Pharmaceuticals' Niaspan, a type of B vitamin called niacin.
After one year, HDL cholesterol rose to an average of 47 for participants in the statin-Niaspan group. At the same time, participants in the statin-alone category experienced more significant blockages in major arteries, while blockages did not change for the statin-Niaspan group. The statin-Niaspan group also experienced fewer heart attacks, strokes and deaths than the statin-alone group (AP/New York Times, 11/11).
"This ushers in a new era of taking a two-pronged approach" to treating cholesterol, lead researcher Dr. Allen Taylor, director of cardiovascular research for the cardiology service of Walter Reed Army Medical Center, said (AP/Lexington Herald-Leader, 11/11). The study is available online. Note: You must have Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the study.