High dose Lipitor reduces artery inflammation: study

CHICAGO (Reuters) - High doses of Pfizer Inc’s Lipitor was more effective than low doses of the cholesterol fighter in reducing arterial inflammation in patients with carotid artery disease, according to a small, 12-week study.

Inflammation in arteries has been associated with an increased risk of stroke.

Inflammation and emboli, or small blood clots, were significantly reduced in patients treated with 80 milligrams of Lipitor compared with those who received 10 mg of the drug each day for 12 weeks, said researchers, who presented the data at the American College of Cardiology scientific meeting on Monday.

The study divided 40 patients with diseased carotid arteries into the two groups. The artery was examined for changes in inflammation at six weeks and 12 weeks using a unique contrast agent with high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

While the 80 mg Lipitor, known generically as atorvastatin, reduced inflammation, researchers appeared even more enthusiastic about the technique used to measure the results.

The arteries were viewed using Ultra Small Particles of Iron Oxide, or USPIO-enhanced, high-resolution MRI.

“The real star of this study is this new way of imaging, which allows you to zero in on what is actually going on in these arteries,” said Dr Jonathan Gillard, one of the study’s lead researchers.

The study demonstrates that if you treat patients who have inflammation of the carotid artery with “a high dose of atorvastatin, you substantially reduce the amount of inflammation and risk of stroke, whereas low dose atorvastatin does not reduce risk,” Gillard said.

“Thanks to this imaging technique, we can now figure out which patients need the aggressive treatment before we begin our therapy,” he added.

Lipitor, which lowers levels of LDL, or bad, cholesterol in the blood, is the world’s top-selling prescription medicine with some $12 billion in annual sales.