Heart attack risk could be significantly reduced with simple anti-inflammatory medication


A clinical trial of more than 10,000 heart attack patients supports a novel way to protect them from a stroke or a second attack: with drugs that stop inflammation. The approach has been advanced by some scientists for years, but this is the first trial to conclusively show that it works.

The heart attack patients who enrolled all had high [c-reactive protein, a heart attack indicator] levels and were given the best treatments available, including aggressive statin therapy. Half also received four infusions of [anti-inflammatory drug] canakinumab each year, at one of three different doses.

And in the end, those infusions made a difference, if a modest one. People receiving the placebo had about a 4.5% risk of a second cardiovascular event after a year versus 3.86% for those on the medium dose of the drug. This meant they were about 15% less likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke or die from cardiovascular disease. Over about 3.5 years, 535 of 3344 people in the placebo group suffered such an “event,” compared with 642 of 4547 getting the medium and high doses. Participants were also about 30% less likely to need a stent or cardiac bypass surgery if they got canakinumab, suggesting that damping down inflammation helps arteries stay healthy.

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