The medications known as statins, typically prescribed to lower blood cholesterol levels, may also modestly reduce blood pressure, according to a report in the April 14 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.
Several previous studies have suggested that statins may have an effect on blood pressure, particularly in patients with hypertension (high blood pressure), according to background information in the article. Statins may activate compounds that widen blood vessels and improve their function.
Beatrice A. Golomb, M.D., Ph.D., and colleagues at the University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, conducted a randomized, double-blind trial comparing statins to placebo in 973 individuals who did not have diabetes or cardiovascular disease. For six months between 2000 and 2004, 322 participants were assigned to take 20 milligrams of simvastatin, 323 to take 40 milligrams of pravastatin (doses frequently prescribed for cholesterol-lowering purposes) and 328 to take placebo. Participants' blood pressure was measured at the beginning of the study, at one and six months during treatment, and again two months after ending treatment (eight months after the beginning of the study).
Among individuals assigned to take statins, systolic [top number] blood pressure decreased by an average of 2.2 millimeters of mercury and diastolic [bottom number] blood pressure decreased by an average of 2.4 millimeters of mercury. "Blood pressure reductions ranged from 2.4 to 2.8 millimeters of mercury for both systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure with both simvastatin and pravastatin, in those subjects with full follow-up and without potential for influence by blood pressure medications (i.e., neither receiving nor meriting blood pressure medications)," the authors write.
The effect of statins on blood pressure was not evident at one month of treatment, was significant at six months of treatment and dissipated two months after treatment ended.
"This study adds to our understanding of the effects of statins, currently the best-selling prescription drugs in the world," the authors write. "The reduction in blood pressure seen with statins may contribute--among other identified factors--to some of the 'rapid' cardiovascular benefits of statins, arising too swiftly to be explained by effects of statins on plaque accumulation."
(Arch Intern Med. 2008;168:721-727. Available pre-embargo to the media at www.jamamedia.org.)
Editor's Note: This study was funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health. The UCSD General Clinical Research Center also helped to support this effort. Please see the article for additional information, including other authors, author contributions and affiliations, financial disclosures, funding and support, etc.