New drug protects from heart attacks

Lipitor could prevent hundreds of thousands of heart attacks and heart deaths if more people used it. It began simply as another round of one-upmanship in the drug industry. Lipitor is the bestselling drug in the world, racking up $9 billion a year for its potent powers to lower dangerous levels of cholesterol and neutralize the risks of life on cheeseburgers. The Pfizer statin drug is a ready target, and Bristol-Myers Squibb took aim four years ago, setting up a face-off to prove its rival statin, Pravachol, with $2.8 billion in sales, was every bit as good, report

According to the good cholesterol HDL, which reduces the risks of heart disease, can be dramatically boosted by an experimental drug that also lowers bad cholesterol, according to a preliminary study.

Potentially offering an entirely new way to prevent heart attacks, researchers at University of Pennsylvania and Tufts University found that the drug doubled HDL in people with worrisomely low levels of the heart-healthy substance. The drug, called torcetrapib, also reduced LDL, the bad cholesterol.

Good cholesterol reduces the risk of heart disease; bad cholesterol raises it.

Until now, doctors have concentrated largely on lowering bad cholesterol by giving patients statin drugs, which are used by millions of Americans and reduce heart attacks by about one-third. Many experts hope to drive down heart disease still further by boosting good cholesterol, too, and several strategies are in testing.

Many experts hope to drive down heart disease further by increasing good cholesterol, and several strategies for doing so are being tested.

The new study was small, involving just 19 patients, but its results suggest that torcetrapib can have a powerful effect.

The drug is still a few years away from reaching the market. The next step will be to test its safety and effectiveness in much larger numbers of volunteers and to find out whether the higher H.D.L. levels result in fewer heart attacks and strokes.

"One of the big questions that we do have with this drug is: will using it to raise H.D.L. levels from normal to high actually reduce risk in people who are at high risk?" said the study's senior author, Dr. Daniel Rader, director of preventive cardiovascular medicine at Penn.

Ultimately, the drug could be used in combination with statins for simultaneously lowering a patient's bad cholesterol and increasing good cholesterol, inform

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