Crestor shines, Vitamin D intrigues at AHA confab

As usual, the American Heart Association's scientific meeting is a bonanza of research news and a carnival of sales gimmicks in the exhibit hall. But lucky you--you don't have to be present to win. Here's a quick roundup of the latest and greatest developments, with a bit of local color thrown in. It's the next best thing to being there.

  • Thousands of annual deaths and hospitalizations from heart failure could be averted if doctors prescribed higher doses of an angiotensin-receptor blocker to those patients, according to a study headed up by Marvin Konstam of Tufts Medical College. Doctors reacted to the news by saying they'd immediately up their patients' doses.
  • AstraZeneca's Crestor helped even relatively healthy women who wouldn't be considered at risk of heart disease under current guidelines. Taking data from the big JUPITER study, which looked at patients whose cholesterol numbers were about normal but whose C-reactive protein was elevated, the new study found a 46 percent reduction in death and other cardiovascular events, with the largest impact being a 76 percent reduction in procedures to open clogged arteries.
  • A study on the docket for today is sure to add to the growing interest in Vitamin D. Among healthy adults age 50 and older, those with extremely low levels of the vitamin were almost twice as likely to die, develop congestive heart failure, or suffer a stroke over the next two years. They also had more coronary artery disease than those with adequate amounts.
  • Here's an opportunity for the marketing department: Many people in the U.S. aren't being screened for cholesterol trouble. Even those who are screened and found with high "bad cholesterol" often don't get treated. Specifically, nearly two-thirds of people in the study with high LDL never were offered standard statin therapy.
  • Some Florida reporters visited the AHA meeting and found Merck's sales reps undaunted by the Arbiter 6 study that raised more questions about the company's cholesterol drugs Zetia and Vytorin. Other sales types were smiling and handing out heart-friendly dark chocolate and, in Pfizer's case, shooting photos of white-coated docs. Soon to be seen poster-size at a cardiologist's office near you.

- see the ARB story in USA Today
- check out the Crestor news from the Wall Street Journal
- get the Vitamin D news from the New York Times
- find the cholesterol article from Reuters
- see the exhibits at the Tampa Bay Tribune