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Director's Comments Transcript: Statins Deter Blood Clots? 05/04/2009

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Greetings from the National Library of Medicine and

Regards to all our listeners!

I'm Rob Logan, Ph.D. senior staff National Library of Medicine substituting this week for Donald Lindberg, M.D, the Director of the U.S. National of Medicine.

Here is what's new this week in MedlinePlus.

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A prescription statin (originally intended to slow the body's production of harmful cholesterol) also may deter blood clots in veins, according to a study recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The study's findings suggest a daily medication may thwart the development of blood clots sometimes found in the legs and lungs, or other areas, which is called venous thromboembolism.

A patient page from the Journal of the American Heart Association (on explains venous thromboembolism comprises both deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism, or the formation of blood clots (frequently in the legs), which can move to one's lungs. MedlinePlus' deep vein thrombosis health topic page explains a blood clot caused by deep vein thrombosis can break loose and move to the lungs, causing a pulmonary embolism.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Controls and Prevention estimates about 600,000 Americans get venous thromboembolism, or blood clots in veins, annually and 100,000 persons die from them. Blood clots increase as a result of: age, obesity, inactivity and genetic predispositions.

In the current study of almost 18,000 adults, 34 participants (who took a daily statin) developed blood clots compared to 60 persons in a placebo group. So, the risk of blood clots in veins declined about 43 percent (and was statistically significant) among those who took a prescription statin compared to a placebo group. The current study enrolled men age 50 and older and women 60 and older. Participants were monitored for an average of just less than two years.

A similar risk reduction occurred among study participants with and without risk factors for developing clots, including persons who were hospitalized, had cancer, or undergone surgery.'s deep vein thrombosis health topic page explains blood clot risk increases after surgery (or during a recovery for a serious illness) because adults often become physically inactive.

The findings are additionally intriguing since there was no elevated risk of bleeding or hemorrhaging among participants. Current treatments for blood clots include anticoagulants that sometimes cause hemorrhaging and require careful patient monitoring.

The findings are part of the comprehensive JUPITER clinical trial of almost 18,000 relatively healthy adult participants in 26 countries, which was sponsored by AstraZeneca. Crestor, the statin used in the trial (which is sold by AstraZeneca), was originally approved as a medication to thwart harmful cholesterol levels. Crestor is one of an array of prescription statins sold by pharmaceutical companies that are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Statins are among the most widely advertised of all prescription pharmaceuticals.

In reporting about the current study, the New York Times noted that some experts believe similar results might occur with other statins as long as dose and patient use patterns are quite similar.

An earlier study from the JUPITER clinical trial published in the New England Journal of Medicine late last year, suggested that statins might be associated with lowering the risk of a heart attack, stroke, angioplasty, bypass surgery, and related death.

Concurrent findings from the JUPITER trial (recently published in The Lancet) also suggested statins decrease the levels of a protein in the body associated with inflammation and perhaps with heart problems.

The 14 authors of the current study, led by researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, emphasized more research is needed to demonstrate the viability of statins to deter blood clots. So, the research may or may not lead to clinical guidelines that encourage the use of statins to thwart deep vein thrombosis, or pulmonary embolism. However, the results suggest statins may be more clinically useful than their original purpose -- to deter the body's production of harmful cholesterol.

Overall, unlike clinical trials that fail to demonstrate health benefits, or information about unexpected, deleterious side effects in approved drugs (which sometimes have been associated with statins), the current study suggests existing medications may have additional therapeutic uses.

You can find more information about Crestor (and other statins) within's 'drugs and supplements' section. The link to the drugs and supplements section is on the upper left side of's home page.

The Journal of the American Heart Association's information about venous thromboembolism is available within the 'prevention/screening' section of MedlinePlus' deep vein thrombosis health topic page. To find the page, type 'DVT' in the search box on's home page. Then, click on 'Deep Vein Thrombosis (National Library of Medicine).'

The page includes information on: diagnosis/symptoms, treatment, other current, related clinical trials, and links to the latest research. Two new links from the Journal of the American Medical Association and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute provide some basic background information about deep vein thrombosis; both are available in the 'start here' section.

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