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Statins 'aid highest risk patients'

Patients with the highest genetic risk of suffering a heart attack benefit the most from cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, a study has found.

Those in intermediate and low-risk categories are still helped by statins, but to a lesser extent, according to researchers.

Scientists analysed data on 49,000 participants in five studies. They found that patients in the highest risk category, as shown by their DNA, had a 70% higher risk of heart attacks than those with the lowest genetic risk.

Statin therapy resulted in risk reductions of 13% in the low-risk group, 29% in the intermediate group, and 48% in the high-risk group.

Dr Nathan Stitziel, from Washington University in the US, who co-led the research, said: "We need more research to confirm these results. Regardless, we can say that patients with a high genetic risk score appear to benefit more from statin therapy because they're starting at a higher baseline risk, even controlling for all the clinical measures we routinely examine."

To calculate the genetic risk scores, the investigators analysed 27 individual "letters" in their DNA that have previously been associated with heart disease.

The findings are published in The Lancet medical journal.

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