Thursday, October 13, 2011

New Use for Existing Drugs?

New research from Johns Hopkins suggests that brain-injured patients on cholesterol-lowering medications known as "statins" appear to be much more likely to survive a traumatic head injury. (Statins are sold under names like Lipitor and Crestor). This is exciting news because there has never been a medication given specifically to head trauma patients and the research here looks very promising.

Older patients who happened to have been taking cholesterol-lowering statin drugs when admitted to the hospital with serious head injuries were 76 percent more likely to survive than those not taking the drugs, according to results of this study. Those taking statins also had a 13 percent greater likelihood of achieving good, functional recovery after one year.

The findings hold out the promise of a specific drug treatment for traumatic brain injury, for which there is none, the researchers say, and could increase use of what is already an incredibly popular class of drugs prescribed to more than four in 10 senior citizens in the United States alone.

“These data are intriguing,” says Eric B. Schneider, Ph.D., study leader and an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University. “We don’t think it’s the lowering of cholesterol that’s helping the brain recover in those who have been taking statins. We think there are other, less well-known properties of statins that are causing the benefits we seem to be seeing here.”

The results are reported in the October issue of The Journal of Trauma.

Schneider says he and his colleagues now want to do a clinical trial administering statins to brain-injured patients not already on the cholesterol-lowering drugs immediately upon arrival in the emergency department, to study whether the medication would have a direct beneficial impact on recovery. “If you get this drug into people very quickly after the injury, we may get the same effect as if the drug were in the body before the accident,” he says.

Let's hope that's the case.


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