Bone Drug Plus Statin Better at Fighting Plaque in Aorta:
THURSDAY, April 28 (HealthDay News) -- Taking both Lipitor and
the bone-strengthening drug Didronel reduces plaque buildup in the
aorta better than Lipitor alone, a small Canadian study
While Lipitor is a statin that lowers cholesterol, Didronel
(etidronate) belongs to a class of drugs called bisphosphonates,
which are typically taken by people with osteoporosis.
"Calcified plaques in the abdominal aorta have been reported to be a risk factor for cardiovascular disease," said lead researcher Dr. Tetsuya Kawahara, from the University of Calgary in Alberta.
"Bisphosphonate plus statin combination therapy can be considered as the more effective therapeutic agents for atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease than statin monotherapy in the near future," Kawahara said.
The results of the study were scheduled to be presented Thursday
at the American Heart Association's Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis
and Vascular Biology 2011 Scientific Sessions in Chicago.
For the study, Kawahara's team randomly assigned 251 patients
with high cholesterol to daily doses of Lipitor alone or in
combination with Didronel.
After two years, the researchers had patients undergo an MRI to
gauge the buildup of plaque in their aortas. The aorta is the large
blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to other parts of
The researchers found that patients in both groups had similar
reductions in the wall thickness of the aorta in the chest.
However, in the part of the aorta that passes through the
abdomen, those on combination therapy had a 12 percent reduction in
aorta thickness, compared with a 1 percent reduction in those
taking only Lipitor, Kawahara's group reported.
In addition, only 1 percent of those on combination therapy had
a heart attack, cardiac bypass or died from heart problems,
compared with 5 percent of those taking Lipitor alone. This
difference was statistically significant, the researchers
While this combination of drugs might sound promising in further
reducing the risks from heart disease, long-term use of
bisphosphonates has been linked to a risk of atypical fractures of
the thigh bone and also to an increased risk for stroke and
irregular heartbeat in cancer patients.
Kawahara noted that the trial wasn't long enough to see if
bisphosphonates had any of these effects. Moreover, not all
bisphosphonates have the same effect on plaque buildup. Other
commonly prescribed bisphosphonates include Fosamax (alendronate),
Boniva (ibandronate) and Actonel (risedronate).
"Only etidronate and clodronate (Bonefos), which are first-generation bisphosphonates, might have this effect," Kawahara added. "So at this time, we cannot recommend that people take bisphosphonates solely for reduction of the atherosclerosis."
Dr. Gregg Fonarow, associate chief of cardiology at UCLA's David
Geffen School of Medicine, said that "there is a biological link
between bone and vascular calcification."
Bisphosphonates reduce bone resorption and fracture risk, but
emerging new evidence suggested these drugs may have the potential
to reduce the atherosclerotic process. Bisphosphonates have been
shown to inhibit cholesterol production, inflammation and oxidative
stress, he added.
"These preliminary findings, while intriguing, require replication in large-scale, prospective, randomized clinical trials," Fonarow said.
For more information on atherosclerosis, visit the
U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood
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