Merck is getting the study results they hoped for from Vytorin. The American Heart Association has wrapped up a six-year study involving 18,000 participants into whether alternatives to statin drugs could be used to not only lower LDL (bad cholesterol), but to also reduce occurrences of heart attacks and strokes.

While the study was funded by Merck, the American Heart Association was allowed to publish findings free of interference. The findings will help millions of Americans who cannot tolerate statins or do not respond to them.

Also in the study, it clarified the role of LDL cholesterol. Before this study, it was thought that statins reduced heart attack risk by both lower LDL and reducing inflammation. The AHA study showed that LDL is the chief factor. The lower the number, the better.

Study participants were divided into two groups – one taking a statin and the other taking a statin with an alternative drug to reduce LDL levels. The results were stark. Both groups ended up with low levels of LDL. The statin-only group ended with an average LDL of 69. The combo group, who took Vytorin saw their LDL’s plummet to 54.

There hasn’t been a study of what happens when LDL drops below 70, because as Dr. Robert Califf, a Duke cardiologist and study chairman, put it – “many people were nervous about going this low and imagined a lot of possible toxicities.”

To put it in real world terms, the results showed that two people out of a hundred who would have had a heart attack while on statins could avoid that outcome by taking the combination drug.

Another bonus found in the study? A lack of meaningful side effects. This will be a first – a drug commercial where 75% of it isn’t explaining how you could die if you take it.

The publication of the study was joined by a happy coincidence. Two genetic studies backed the claims over lower LDL and heart attacks risk. The release is making many wonder about the guidelines for people suffering high cholesterol. Currently there are no stated goals or alternatives listed for statins. Instead, it just simply pushes people at high risk onto statins.

This should give doctors another tool for patients that cannot tolerate the current slate of cholesterol drugs. It also proves that the lower you can take LDL, the better off you will be. No toxicity was reported when the Vytorin took levels well below 70.

Head over to the American Heart Association for more tips to lower your cholesterol and reduce heart attack risk.

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