Will cholesterol drugs fight heart disease?

Researchers have found a DNA variant that can predict if men with heart disease will benefit from the cholesterol-fighting drug pravastatin.

According to a study published recently in the New England Journal of Medicine, the gene coding for cholesteryl ester transfer protein, CETP, is present in DNA with varying forms in individuals. The study involved 807 men with heart disease who were treated with pravastatin for two years. For those with CETP in their DNA, the pravastatin therapy significantly slowed the progression of heart disease. The therapy did not slow the development of heart disease in those without the DNA variation. Researchers also noted that those 16% of men without the CETP variant had arteries that tended to clog at a slower rate than the men with CETP present in DNA.

The results of the study led by researchers from Canada and the Netherlands could help doctors understand why some drugs and therapies do not work the same in all patients. Pravastatin is sold under the brand name Pravachol by Bristol-Myers Squibb of New York City.

(See: Kuivenhoven JA, et al. The role of a common variant of the cholesteryl ester transfer protein gene in the progression of coronary atherosclerosis. N Engl J Med 1998; 338:86-93.)