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Archive for Thursday, November 16, 2000

Cholesterol, surgery check urged for heart attack patients

November 16, 2000

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— Everyone hospitalized with a mild heart attack or bad chest pain should quickly get a cholesterol-lowering drug and undergo testing for possible angioplasty or bypass surgery, two large studies conclude.

One study found that immediately giving them the cholesterol-lowering drug Lipitor regardless of their cholesterol levels could reduce the risk of death and new heart attacks by 16 percent.

The other study found that routinely checking these patients' heart arteries with angiograms, then fixing blockages when necessary with bypass surgery or balloon angioplasty, could reduce these events by 18 percent.

Lipitor and other cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins are already a mainstay of treating people with bad hearts. However, heart attacks can disrupt cholesterol readings, so doctors often wait a few weeks before starting patients on the medicines.

Also, patients who suffer only mild heart attacks or chest pain are not always evaluated for angioplasty or bypass surgery.

The results of both studies were released at a meeting in New Orleans of the American Heart Assn. The cholesterol-lowering drug study was sponsored by Pfizer, which makes Lipitor, while the angiogram study was financed by Merck, which makes one of the medicines used in the research.

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