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Cholesterol Drug Prevents Heart Disease in Diabetics

13 February, 2014

ISLAMABAD: Diabetics can prevent heart disease and live longer by taking the anti-cholesterol drug Atorvastatin, even if they do not have particularly high cholesterol levels, a study published on Friday said.

Atorvastatin is normally given to patients with high levels of LDL-cholesterol -- a "lipid" or fatty chemical -- in their blood, to reduce the risk of heart problems associated with too much cholesterol.

But the study, in the British medical journal the Lancet, showed the drug can prevent heart disease and save lives when given to type 2 diabetics even with normal cholesterol levels.

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes, a problem processing sugar in the blood. In the United States alone it affects 18.2 million people and puts them at greater risk of heart disease and stroke.

In the study, more than 2,800 patients with diabetes were split into two groups. One group was give Atorvastatin and the other given placebo pills. Over nearly four years, the patients who took Atorvastatin were 27 percent less likely to die and 37 percent less likely to have a major cardiovascular event such as a heart attack or stroke.

The authors of the project, led by Helen Colhoun of the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at the Royal Free and University College Medical School in London, concluded the drugs should be given to type 2 diabetics regardless of their cholesterol levels.

"No justification is available for having a particular threshold level of LDL-cholesterol as the sole arbiter of which patients with type 2 diabetes should receive statins," they wrote.

But in an article published alongside the research, Abhimany Garg of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas said it was still too early to recommend that all type 2 diabetics go on anti-cholesterol drugs.

"For patients with type 2 diabetes at moderate to low risk of coronary heart disease, maximal lowering of lipids with diet, exercise, weight loss and rigorous glycaemic control must be attempted before considering lipid lowering drugs," Garg wrote.

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