NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


September 9, 2004

Increased doses of the cholesterol-lowering drug Zocor did little to benefit heart attack victims, but did put them at risk of developing muscle-related complications, according to a study to be released in the Sept. 15 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The experiment, which included 4,497 patients, set out to determine whether high doses of Zocor worked better than low ones at preventing death and cardiovascular complications in people who had suffered heart attacks.

Some 2,265 patients were assigned at random to aggressive treatment, meaning 40 milligrams of Zocor a day and then 80 milligrams a day. The second group, consisting of 2,232 patients, took placebos for four months and then 20 milligrams of Zocor a day. Both groups were followed for 6 months to 2 years.

  • Although the high-dose patients appeared to fare slightly better over time, the difference between the groups never became large enough to be statistically significant.
  • Moreover, nine patients in the high-dose group, and none in the low-dose group, suffered from myopathy, a muscle disorder estimated to affect one in 1,000 people who take statins.

Steven E. Nissen, a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic, who wrote an editorial accompanying the Zocor report, noted that 80-milligram doses of another statin, Lipitor, did not seem to cause muscle problems. He also added that the dose of Zocor most commonly used, 40 milligrams, was safe and not associated with muscle problems.

Source: Denise Grady, "Study Questions Value of Big Doses of Heart Drug," New York Times, August 31, 2005.


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