LODZ, Poland — New research indicates that thousands of lives could be saved if patients who have suffered a heart attack promptly receive a combination of statins and other cholesterol-lowering drugs. According to scientists, this double cholesterol-lowering therapy significantly reduces the risk of death.
The study, led by Professor Maciej Banach of the Medical University of Lodz in Poland, found that individuals diagnosed with acute coronary syndrome (ACS) — which includes heart attack and unstable angina patients — are 47 percent less likely to die within three years if they immediately begin a regimen of high-dose statins combined with ezetimibe. This is in contrast to those who only receive high-dose statins.
The research analyzed data from 1,536 Polish patients with ACS. Half of these patients were treated solely with high-dose statins, while the other half received a combination of high-dose statins and ezetimibe.
Remarkably, the study found that the risk of death was already lower after just 52 days of treatment with this dual therapy. Researchers estimate that for every 21 patients receiving this combined treatment over a three-year period, one life would be saved.
Both statins and ezetimibe are readily available medications proven to effectively lower blood cholesterol levels. Elevated levels of cholesterol can obstruct blood vessels, thereby increasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
ACS affects approximately seven million people worldwide, including around four million who have suffered heart attacks.
By revising current treatment guidelines to include this double therapy, an estimated 330,000 deaths could be prevented annually.
“Patients with acute coronary syndrome, such as those who have already had a heart attack, face a much higher risk of further heart problems,” says Professor Banach in a media release. “Current guidelines, including those on prevention from the European Society of Cardiology, recommend a stepwise approach, first offering a statin only. This study shows that if we act quickly and decisively to lower patients’ cholesterol with this combination of treatments, we can drastically reduce the risk of death.”
The study is published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
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South West News Service writer Stephen Beech contributed to this report.