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Lipitor Shown to Reduce Blood Viscosity, Part I

Study Shows Atorvastatin Reduced Blood Viscosity As Much As 18%

Research published in the journal Atherosclerosis demonstrates that administration of atorvastatin (Lipitor®) reduced diastolic blood viscosity by 18% and systolic blood viscosity by 7% from baseline at the maximal dose (80 mg/day) in patients with familial hypercholesterolemia. The patients also had 5% higher systolic and 17% higher diastolic baseline viscosity levels than those of healthy controls.

Hypercholesterolemia is a common condition where cholesterol levels are higher than normal, at 240 and above (mg/dL). Familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) is a genetic disorder affecting about 7 of 1000 people, who are unable to remove LDL cholesterol from their bloodstreams. Patients with FH have consistently elevated LDL levels, early onset of cardiovascular diseases, and high rates of acute events. Approximately 85% of males with FH experience a heart attack before 60 years of age.

The published study focused on 12 individuals with FH who had been on regular LDL apheresis treatment at weekly intervals for several years (mean 54 months). The treatment continued during the study period, and atorvastatin was administered starting at a dose of 20 mg/day. The dose was increased in a stepwise fashion every two weeks (40, 60, and 80 mg/day, maximal). Twelve age and sex matched healthy subjects were used as controls for the baseline values.

Atorvastatin is one of a number of cholesterol (mainly LDL) lowering drugs called statins. Lowering the cholesterol concentration in the blood works to reduce blood viscosity by individually altering its major determinants, namely plasma viscosity, red cell rigidity and aggregation. While hematocrit remained unchanged in the study, plasma viscosity (6.3%) and aggregation (11.7%) were reduced, and the authors suggested that a decrease in the cholesterol/phospholipid ratio of the red cell membrane caused by the statins may improve the red cell deformability.

The authors wrote: “An improved blood rheology secondary to atorvastatin in high-risk patients with manifest atherosclerotic vascular disease might alleviate their clinical symptoms by improving blood flow and contribute to risk reduction. Furthermore, an improvement in blood flow properties might be one of the beneficial effects of statins in stabilization of vulnerable plaques and thus contribute to reduce cardiovascular morbidity and mortality, a fact that has been impressively demonstrated in major clinical trials.” They also noted that “our findings suggest that atorvastatin improves blood rheology in patients with FH on regular LDL-apheresis. The improvement in blood flow properties may contribute to the well-known beneficial effects of atorvastatin on cardiovascular risk in patients with severe hyperlipidemia and atherosclerotic vascular disease.”


S. Banyai, et al. Atorvastatin improves blood rheology in patients with familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) on long-term LDL apheresis treatment. Atherosclerosis, 159 (2001) 513-519.


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