Harvard Women's Health Watch

In the journals: New analysis supports expanded use of statins in women

In February 2010, the FDA approved rosuvastatin (Crestor), a cholesterol-lowering drug, for the prevention of heart disease in people with normal cholesterol levels. A report in the March 9, 2010, issue of Circulation helps to explain why this decision makes sense.

Crestor is one of several statins — drugs that reduce cholesterol in the blood by inhibiting its production in the liver. Statins lower total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol, and triglycerides; slightly raise HDL (good) cholesterol; and reduce C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker of inflammation. Crestor and other statins have already been approved to slow the progression of cardiovascular disease and to reduce elevated cholesterol in healthy people. Crestor is now approved for men ages 50 and over and women ages 60 and over who have normal LDL cholesterol but elevated CRP levels (as measured by a high-sensitivity test called hs-CRP) and one additional cardiac risk factor, such as high blood pressure, low HDL cholesterol, or smoking. The FDA's decision acknowledges the drug's ability to dampen inflammation, which is increasingly implicated in cardiovascular disease.

In expanding the uses of Crestor, the agency cited evidence from JUPITER, a trial involving nearly 18,000 healthy women and men with elevated CRP levels but normal levels of LDL cholesterol. In that study, published in November 2008, volunteers who used Crestor for almost two years were 44% less likely to suffer a major cardiovascular event, such as heart attack or stroke, compared with those taking a placebo.

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