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AMERICAN MORNING

Paging Dr. Gupta: Two Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs Put to Test

Aired November 13, 2003 - 08:55   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Two cholesterol-lowering drugs were put to the test in a new study. Which one comes out on top? Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us with the answer.
Good morning.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Which two are we talking about?

GUPTA: We're talking about Lipitor and Pravachol. And these are the two big stat drugs. This is a multiple billion dollar industry just to give you a sense of it. A big meeting going on down in Orlando. The American Heart Association. It's a big topic down there, actually putting these two, doing a face-off between these two drugs, and actually Lipitor came out on top, take a look there. A couple of things they were looking at. First of all, it appeared that Lipitor overall developed less plaque development, actually stopped the progression of plaque in the blood vessel. That's a very important point. Also seemed to do a bit better at lowering the bad kind of cholesterol, another important point.

Very small percentage of cases, very small, it actually reversed some of the plaque development, as well. If that actually pans out to be something more than that, that will be very interesting down the road. This is the first time these two things have actually been put to the test. It's sort of interesting, LDL, just to be clear, is the bad kind of cholesterol. That's the number they were looking at specifically here. Existing guidelines say shoot for an LDL about a 100 if you have any concerns about heart disease. In this study, Lipitor actually reduced LDL to about 80, and it's sort of begging the question now, Soledad, is lower always going to be better with respect to these bad cholesterols? Don't know the answer to that yet. But 80 seemed to be a little better than 100 with respect to this.

O'BRIEN: Some people have said that these statins across the board work so well that one doctor told me once they should be putting this in the drinking water, it's so effective. Are there any risk to taking statins, Lipitor maybe specifically, but really all of them?

GUPTA: Very good question. I actually talked to the doctor who did this study and I asked him the same question. I asked him about myself, I said, should I be on this medication? And he sort of laughed, and said, I'm not ready to do that over the phone, as a good doctor would. But he said, for the most part, it's a pretty good drug and there's very few reasons not to be on it. He doesn't even monitor liver function tests, even though that is one of the concerns about this particular drug. Results of the concern possibly about some numbness in the hands and the feet. That's been in some anecdotal reports.

But for the most part, this is looking like a pretty safe drug, and it's been around for awhile now. This is long-term data they're starting to get back. Looks like it's a relatively safe drug. There are some occasional reports to these things.

O'BRIEN: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, we'll check in with you later. Thanks so much.

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