Researchers in Poland found that people with acute coronary syndrome (ACS) – which causes heart attacks – were 47 per cent less likely to die within three years after taking a high dose statin alongside cholesterol medication ezetimibe, compared with just a high dose statin.
Out of every 21 patients taking the double treatment for three years, one death was prevented.
Maciej Banach, Professor of Cardiology at the Medical University of Lodz, who led the study, said: “Patients with acute coronary syndrome, such as those who have already had a heart attack, face a much higher risk of further heart problems.
“Current guidelines, including those on prevention from the European Society of Cardiology, recommend a stepwise approach, first offering a statin only.
“This study shows that if we act quickly and decisively to lower patients’ cholesterol with this combination of treatments, we can drastically reduce the risk of death.
“Around seven million people suffer acute coronary syndrome every year and the majority of cases are linked to high cholesterol and a build-up of fat in the blood vessels.
“We have effective cholesterol lowering treatments, but we must make sure the people who need them are taking them.”
Researchers examined data on 1,536 patients with ACS who were part of the national Polish Registry of Acute Coronary Syndromes (PL-ACS).
Half were treated with a high dose statin only while the other half were treated with a combination of a high dose statin and ezetimibe.
Those who started taking a statin and ezetimibe straight away were less likely to die of any cause in the following three years. The risk of death was found to be lower after just 52 days of treatment.
The findings were published in the Journal of the American Heart Association on Wednesday.
When people have high levels of cholesterol it can block their blood vessels increasing the risk of heart disease or stroke.
ACS affects around seven million people worldwide, including around four million heart attack patients.