A cholesterol-lowering study whose results were announced this week has a wealth of important implications. The findings could certainly presage a significant change in the way heart disease patients are treated.

The study, sponsored by Bristol-Myers Squibb and led by researchers at Harvard University’s medical complex, provided persuasive evidence that lowering cholesterol far beyond currently recommended levels was beneficial in patients who had already suffered a heart attack.

Going into the study, the medical consensus was that these and other high-risk patients should keep their levels of the so-called bad cholesterol below 100 milligrams per decilitre of blood. That, it turns out, may not be low enough. The study found that patients whose cholesterol levels were driven down to a median of 62 milligrams by a high dose of a powerful drug suffered fewer deaths and major cardiovascular problems than those whose cholesterol was driven down to only 95 milligrams by a standard dose of a less potent drug.

Experts are suggesting that this will provoke a sea change in how such patients are treated. The implications for preventing heart attacks in people who have not yet had one are less clear. Further studies and evaluations seem necessary before people start ingesting cholesterol-lowering drugs on a daily basis. — The New York Times