ORLANDO, Fla (Reuters) - AstraZeneca’s powerful cholesterol drug Crestor cut the risk of dangerous blood clots in the vein by 43 percent in a large study, researchers said on Sunday.
The results marked the first time one of the widely used statin class of cholesterol fighting drugs demonstrated an ability to prevent such clots in a major clinical trial, according to researchers.
“It is another benefit of an extraordinary class of drug,” said Dr. Paul Ridker of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, who led the study. Venous thrombosis “is very common, it can be very disabling and occasionally it’s fatal ... This is actually evidence that we can prevent the first one.”
Reducing the risk of the venous clots was a secondary goal of a landmark 17,802-patient study, known as Jupiter, whose main results were released to great fanfare in November.
Jupiter found that Crestor dramatically cut deaths, heart attacks and strokes in patients with healthy cholesterol levels but who had high levels of a protein associated with heart disease. The trial was stopped more than two years early by independent safety monitors because the benefit of Crestor, also known as rosuvastatin, was so pronounced.
The Jupiter study, which involved subjects who would not normally be prescribed statins, randomized the men and women to either 20 milligrams of Crestor once a day, or a placebo.
Of the 17,802 patients, 34 in the Crestor group developed a venous thromboembolism, compared with 60 in the placebo group, according to data presented at the American College of Cardiology scientific meeting in Orlando.
“This is pure prevention,” Ridker said.
There was also no bleeding risk with Crestor, which is an issue with other anti-clotting medicines, Ridker said.
Venous thromboembolism, the clotting of red blood cells in the veins, can develop into clots that break off and lodge in the lungs — a potentially fatal condition. At least 100,000 of such pulmonary embolism cases occur each year in the United States.
Various anti-coagulant drugs, such as warfarin, are already given to patients who suffer a blood clot in order to prevent others from developing, but the Jupiter data could lead physicians to add statins to their treatment regimens.
The data also bolsters the evidence for doctors to prescribe statins, which have already demonstrated their ability to reduce heart attacks and strokes, Ridker said.
“We’re not arguing that you should go on a statin to lower your risk of venous thrombosis,” Ridker said.
But, he said, a physician discussing statins can now also tell patients about data that show “we can reduce your risk of a blood clot.”
“That’s very reassuring,” Ridker said. “And if you’ve had a prior blood clot, you probably would want to talk to your physician about whether or not you should be thinking about taking a statin as well.”
Additional reporting by Bill Berkrot; Editing Bernard Orr