A drug to improve health?

Can a drug make healthy people healthier? Possibly so, according to a study of Merck's cholesterol-lowering drug Mevacor (lovastatin) by a combined trio of research sites.

The study aimed to determine whether adults with normal cholesterol levels - or those who normally would not be put on a drug regimen - could reduce their chances of heart attack or unstable angina by taking the drug.

The answer from preliminary results is yes, by a 36% reduction rate, say researchers at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, the University of North Texas in Fort Worth, and Wilford Hall Medical Center at Lackland (TX) Air Force Base.

997 women included in study

The study tracked 6,605 patients in a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled trial that included 997 women ages 45 to 73 and 1,416 patients overall ages 65 and older.

Doses started at 20 mg daily to a maximum of 40 mg a day, targeting low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels of 110 mg/dL or less. Results included total cholesterol reduction of 18.4%, LDL reduction of 25%, and high-density lipoprotein increase of 6%. (Triglycerides were down 15%.)

Based on the results, these "healthy" people, in addition to reducing overall heart attack and angina as "first acute coronary events" by 36%, also reduced the risk of "first coronary events" by 54% in women and 34% in men. Other results included reductions of 43% in patients deemed hypertensive, 43% in diabetics, and 29% in the overall senior citizen category. Bypass and angioplasty decreased 33%, and hospital admissions caused by unstable angina dropped 34% for those taking the drug.

[Editor's note: For more information on Mevacor, contact Cornell's Myrna Manners at (212) 821-0560, North Texas' Becky Poer at (817) 735-2553, or Wilford Hall's Dewey Mitchell at (210) 292-7688.]