Health Watch -- Post-heart Attack Drugs

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Earlier, more aggressive treatment may be the key to helping patients live longer after heart attacks.

Aggressive treatment with cholesterol-lowering drugs given sooner after a heart attack may help save lives. That's according to the results of a multi-center study led by doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

The "A to Z" study of about 4,500 patients at more than 300 medical centers in 41 countries found that giving patients high doses of cholesterol-lowering statin drugs soon after they first experience heart attack symptoms helps prevent complications and even death after a heart attack.

Dr. James de Lemos, the UT Southwestern cardiologist who led the study, says in the past, heart attack patients were first stabilized and put on low-cholesterol diets for awhile before doctors tried giving them cholesterol-lowering drugs at lower doses. More aggressive treatment would be tried later if that didn't help.

This study shows that the earlier, more aggressive treatment was more effective than delayed, less aggressive treatment at preventing death following a heart attack, as well as complications like congestive heart failure, stroke or another heart attack.

Dr. de Lemos says patients on statin drugs need to be monitored for side effects like muscle weakness, which are associated with statin drugs.

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Sept. 2004

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