The Wonder Drug

Study hails heart wonder drug They have been hailed as a wonder drug - the pill of life - a magic bullet in the fight against heart disease, one of the world's biggest killers.

Now new research supports claims by international drug manufacturers that statins, already the world's biggest-selling medication, dramatically reduce the risk of heart attack and death in high-risk middle-aged men. Statins may also provide health benefits up to 10 years after a patient stops using the drug, the research has found.

Statins are a cholesterol-lowering medication taken in pill form that prevents plaque buildup in arteries.

About 10,500 Kiwis die from cardiovascular disease each year.

It is one of the country's biggest killers, accounting for 40 per cent of all deaths.

Nearly 300,000 New Zealanders already consume one million prescriptions annually of the fully subsidised drug, marketed here as Lipex and Lipitor, at a cost to taxpayers of about $50 million.

But a leading Wellington cardiologist is urging calm following the latest findings, warning that statin use is no magic panacea against heart attacks for those most at risk - diabetes sufferers, smokers, Maori men, and people with high blood pressure or high cholesterol levels. Medical experts have just published the results of a 15-year trial in Scotland involving 6500 men aged between 45 and 64 who had not had heart attacks but showed elevated cholesterol levels.

Half were given the drug Pravastatin for five years and the rest given a placebo. Another study then tracked the men's progress for 10 years after the initial trial.

The results show a 25 per cent lower risk of heart attack or death from heart disease among those in the statin group - even though many stopped taking the drug a decade earlier.

Some health experts now suggest the drug - which has little or no side effects - should be prescribed preventively to those who are not high-risk.

Stewart Mann, Wellington School of Medicine Associate Professor of cardiovascular medicine, warned that statins are not a miracle panacea: "There are benefits and I strongly support their use, but particularly in those who are at enough level of risk that it will substantially reduce their risk. It does not guarantee freedom from heart attack."

Pharmac medical director Peter Moodie said people at high risk of heart disease could not substitute healthy living for a magic drug.

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The magic pill that most lazy people are looking for... statins. (after this is the disclaimer warning that the side effects of statins include and are not limited to: Percentages as reported with immediate release tablets; similar adverse reactions seen with extended release tablets.

>10%: Neuromuscular & skeletal: CPK increased (>2x normal) (11%)

1% to 10%:

Central nervous system: Headache (2% to 3%), dizziness (0.5% to 1%)

Dermatologic: Rash (0.8% to 1%)

Gastrointestinal: Abdominal pain (2% to 3%), constipation (2% to 4%), diarrhea (2% to 3%), dyspepsia (1% to 2%), flatulence (4% to 5%), nausea (2% to 3%)

Neuromuscular & skeletal: Myalgia (2% to 3%), weakness (1% to 2%), muscle cramps (0.6% to 1%)

Ocular: Blurred vision (0.8% to 1%)

10x normal), depression, dryness of skin/mucous membranes, dyspnea, eosinophilia, erectile dysfunction, erythema multiforme, ESR increased, facial paresis, fatty liver, fever, flushing, fulminant hepatic necrosis, GGT increased, gynecomastia, hemolytic anemia, hepatitis, hepatoma, hyperbilirubinemia, hypersensitivity reaction, impaired extraocular muscle movement, impotence, leukopenia, libido decreased, malaise, memory loss, myopathy, nail changes, nodules, ophthalmoplegia, pancreatitis, paresthesia, peripheral nerve palsy, peripheral neuropathy, photosensitivity, polymyalgia rheumatica, positive ANA, pruritus, psychic disturbance, purpura, rash, renal failure (secondary to rhabdomyolysis), rhabdomyolysis, skin discoloration, Stevens-Johnson syndrome, systemic lupus erythematosus-like syndrome, thrombocytopenia, thyroid dysfunction, toxic epidermal necrolysis, transaminases increased, tremor, urticaria, vasculitis, vertigo, and vomiting.


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