HK scientists eye genetic clues to Chinese statin response

Why don't statin drugs work as well in Chinese patients as they do in the those in the West? A group of researchers aims to find out. Scientists from Hong Kong plan to test commonly used statins--such as Merck's Zocor, Pfizer's Lipitor and AstraZeneca's Crestor--on liver and fat cells from study participants in southern China. The idea is to determine how well the drugs work on people with various genetic features.

"We will see which type of genetic profile is suited to which drug," researcher David Siu told Reuters. "[T]his is personalized medicine."

The problem is that while statins work well in Caucasian patients, they help reduce hardening of the arteries in only 20% to 30% of patients in China, the researchers said. "That means 70% to 80% respond poorly," Siu said. "We only continue to use statins because they are good drugs, but the benefit may be low."

The scientists' hypothesis is that the genes behind high cholesterol in Chinese patients may be different from those responsible for the same problems in Western populations. "If we find that a different set of genes may be responsible for high cholesterol, we may need a different drug," lead investigator Tse Hung-fat told Reuters.

- read the Reuters news