Two Statins Stun in SATURN Study

Two popular varieties of statins

heart vascular health line art

Plaque in the coronary arteries can cause chest pain and lead to heart attacks. You can halt and even reverse the growth of plaque in the coronary arteries by taking high doses of drugs known as statins. But which statin is best? There are two popular varieties, Crestor (rosuvostatin) and Lipitor (atorvastatin).

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Cleveland Clinic researchers recently completed a study that compared the two statins head to head in a group of slightly more than 1,000 patients. The results? They found that Crestor did a great job, and that Lipitor … well, it also did a great job. In fact, both statins reversed coronary plaques more extensively than anyone had ever seen before.

“This study demonstrates that the highest doses of the most effective statins currently available is safe, well tolerated and produces marked plaque regression,” said Cleveland Clinic cardiologist Stephen Nicholls, MD, PhD, lead investigator of the trial. “The finding that these therapies produced low levels of LDL, raised HDL and removed plaque from the artery wall in a safe manner is positive news for patients with heart disease.”

Results of the trial, known as SATURN, were announced at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions in Orlando, Fla., and simultaneously published in The New England Journal of Medicine. The study used intravascular ultrasound (IVUS) imaging to compare the progression of coronary atherosclerosis after two years of treatment with these two drugs. There were few adverse events observed during the study and no patients experienced serious muscle injury demonstrating that disease regression can be achieved with excellent safety.

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Cleveland Clinic researchers led by Steven Nissen, MD, chair of Cardiovascular Medicine, first proved that it was possible to halt and reverse the development of coronary plaques back in 2006, using only Crestor, in a trail called ASTEROID. Now SATURN shows that cardiologists who would like a choice of statins to prescribe for this purpose can choose one or the other, based on their judgment and preference for the patient.

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