(NaturalNews) According to a study published in the March 18 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), a drug that had looked promising in preventing atherosclerosis (the process in which plaque builds up in the inner lining of the arteries leading to cardiovascular events) in animal tests just doesn`t work in humans. What`s more, the medication appears to be downright dangerous. Instead of preventing cardiac problems, it increases the incidence of heart attacks and strokes.
The theory behind trying the drug, pactimibe, is that the medication supposedly blocks the action of acyl coenzyme A: cholesterol acyltransferase (ACAT), an enzyme involved in cholesterol accumulation. So by inhibiting one form of the enzyme, ACAT-1, scientists reasoned pactimibe should slow the progression of atherosclerosis and prevent the development of plaque.
The drug was tested in 892 people with a family history of high cholesterol (familial hypercholesterolemia), which is associated with a higher risk for atherosclerosis. In a randomized, placebo-controlled study called the Carotid Atherosclerosis Progression Trial Investigating Vascular ACAT Inhibition Treatment Effects (CAPTIVATE, for short) conducted at 40 clinics in the US, Canada, Europe, South Africa and Israel, 443 subjects were given 100 mg/d of pactimibe and 438 received identical looking but inactive placebo pills. When the study began, the amount of atherosclerosis the participants had was measured by ultrasound carotid intima-media thickness (CIMT) tests and the ultrasounds were repeated after 12, 18, and 24 months.
The treatment was stopped in October of 2005 when CIMT testing revealed there was no difference between thickness of the artery walls in those taking pactimibe and in those taking placebo. In fact, after six months of treatment with pactimibe, low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL, also known as the "bad" cholesterol) increased by an average of 7.3 percent compared with only 1.4 in the placebo group. An even more disturbing outcome was noted in the people taking the drug -- a statistically significant increase in cardiovascular deaths, heart attacks, and strokes.
In a statement to the media, Marijn C. Meuwese, M.D., of the Academic Medical Center, Amsterdam, and colleagues concluded "... in patients with familial hypercholesterolemia, pactimibe had no effect on atherosclerosis as assessed by changes in maximum CIMT compared with placebo but was associated with an increase in mean CIMT as well as increased incidence of major cardiovascular events." They added that the findings from these other studies lessen "the promise and further development of this class of drugs for cardiovascular prevention."
Fortunately, even having a genetic inheritance that makes you more likely to have extra high cholesterol doesn`t necessarily doom you to a life of heart problems and necessitate your taking of cholesterol lowering drugs. For example, the NIH`s National Cholesterol Education Program notes a healthy lifestyle is a proven way to help keep your cholesterol level in check. Limiting saturated fat in your diet, keeping your weight at a healthy level, and being physically active for 30 minutes most days has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol and raise high density lipoprotein (HDL, the "good" cholesterol).
Sherry Baker is a widely published writer whose work has appeared in Newsweek, Health, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Yoga Journal, Optometry, Atlanta, Arthritis Today, Natural Healing Newsletter, OMNI, UCLA's "Healthy Years" newsletter, Mount Sinai School of Medicine's "Focus on Health Aging" newsletter, the Cleveland Clinic's "Men's Health Advisor" newsletter and many others.