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Statin Therapy Inadequate For High-Risk Patients

Armen Hareyan's picture

Results from a survey of general practitioners and cardiologists across Europe released Sunday shows that nearly three quarters of doctors surveyed feel that many patients with high cholesterol levels who are at risk of cardiovascular disease may be insufficiently treated if prescribed only with cholesterol-lowering drugs, or statins.

The survey, presented at the World Congress of Cardiology in Barcelona, also showed that 64% of doctors are reluctant to prescribe high-dose statins to patients at risk because of concerns about safety and side effects.

The majority of physicians surveyed - around 86% - agreed that treating the two sources of cholesterol - the absorption of cholesterol in the intestine and production in the liver - is more effective in achieving a greater reduction in cholesterol levels than treating just liver production alone.

Cholesterol in the body originates from two main sources: production in the liver and the absorption in the intestine of both liver and dietary cholesterol.

Statins only treat cholesterol production in the liver.

On the other hand, combination drugs like Merck & Co Inc's (MRK) and Schering-Plough Corp's (SGP) Inegy, which is marketed under the brand name of Vytorin in the U.S., have been proven to achieve a greater reduction of cholesterol levels by inhibiting both its production and absorption.

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Vytorin combines Merck's statin Zocor with Schering-Plough's Ezetrol, a drug that works by inhibiting the absorption of cholesterol in the intestine.

Other drugmakers have also begun developing combination cholesterol drugs, such as Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca PLC (AZN) and Abbott Laboratories (ABT).

Cholesterol is needed as a raw material to build cell walls, make hormones and generate vitamins.

There are two types of cholesterol: low-density lipoprotein - otherwise known as LDL, or "bad" cholesterol - that carries cholesterol to the coronary arteries, and high-density lipoprotein, known as HDL, or "good" cholesterol, that carries it away.

If LDL is too high or HDL is too low, arteries get clogged with build up, blocking the heart's oxygen supply and causing a heart attack.

A total of 879 interviews were conducted with general practitioners and cardiologists in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the U.K. respectively.

The survey was carried out on behalf of Merck and Schering-Plough.