New Risk Factor Found

Photo: Stethoscope

High hs-CRP levels seem to
increase, statins seem to decrease
the cardiovascular risk; © SXC

The results of the study were so conclusive that the clinical trial had to be stopped before its scheduled completion date. Researchers associated with the international JUPITER Project have demonstrated that high levels of high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) leads to increased risk of cardiovascular disease. This risk decreases by up to 44 percent if the patients are treated with statin medications.

"The risk of cardiovascular disease due to increased hs-CRP levels has been greatly underestimated until now," according to Jacques Genest who led the Canadian component of the JUPITER clinical study. "Our results show that this is an extremely important indicator that doctors will have to consider in the future."

"We hope that this study will prompt a review of current clinical practices, especially in terms of screening and prevention in adults," he added. "However, we still need to do more research to establish specific standards."

The JUPITER study included 17,802 patients from 27 different countries. All had normal levels of cholesterol (LDL-c) and high levels of hs-CRP, and according to current standards, were not considered "at risk" for cardiovascular events, and were therefore not receiving any treatment. During the study, participants received a daily dose of a statin drug, and its consequences were striking: a 44 percent decrease in the risk of cardiovascular disease and a 21 percent decrease in mortality.

"These results definitely surpassed our predictions," said Genest. "We had to stop the study before its scheduled completion, as the benefit of the treatment for the selected patients was so great that we needed to present our findings to the medical community as soon as possible."

Since statins have a cholesterol-lowering effect, they are currently used to prevent cardiovascular disease in patients who are at-risk due to high LDL-c levels. But cardiovascular disease is also caused by vascular inflammation, which is marked by levels of hs-CRP. This study shows that statins indeed act on both cholesterol and inflammation, an effect that has long been suspected but not proven.; Source: McGill University Health Centre