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9/19/2000

Pravastatin Cuts Risk for Certain Strokes

Kate Traynor

Researchers in Australia and New Zealand report that patients with coronary heart disease who take pravastatin reduce their risk for ischemic but not hemorrhagic stroke.

Over a six-year period, pravastatin 40 mg/day reduced the overall risk for stroke by 19 percent, compared with placebo. Specifically, pravastatin lowered the risk for ischemic stroke risk—by 23 percent—but did not affect the incidence of hemorrhagic stroke. 

According to the National Stroke Association, 83 percent of strokes involve ischemia. 

Ischemic and hemorrhagic strokes during the study were verified by computed tomographic (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans or by autopsy. Strokes were classified as unknown in origin when CT, MRI, or autopsy information was not available. 

The study, published in the Aug. 3 New England Journal of Medicine, used data from 9,014 adults who had been diagnosed with angina pectoris or had survived a myocardial infarction. 

Half of the patients were older than 62. All were participants in the Long-Term Intervention with Pravastatin in Ischaemic Disease trial in Australia and New Zealand, which recruited patients in the early 1990s in order to study whether the lipid-lowering drug reduced the death rate from coronary heart disease. A secondary purpose of the study was to observe whether lowered cholesterol levels would affect the incidence of various types of stroke. 

During the six-year follow-up, there were 309 ischemic strokes, 31 hemorrhagic strokes, and 79 strokes of undetermined type. Forty-one people had multiple strokes. Eighty-two percent of patients in each treatment group also took aspirin, which is known to prevent ischemic stroke under certain circumstances. 

Bristol-Myers Squibb, manufacturer of pravastatin, funded the study.