Statins Plus Niacin

May Slow Heart Disease

Taking one substance to boost "good" cholesterol and another to lower the "bad" version can slow the progression of heart disease more effectively than one substance alone, the first study to test this dual approach has found.

The added benefits came from taking niacin, a type of B vitamin, on top of statins, the cholesterol-lowering drugs prescribed to millions and sold under such brand names as Lipitor and Zocor.

"This ushers in a new era of taking a two-pronged approach" to controlling cholesterol, said study leader Allen Taylor, director of cardiovascular research at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

The study was reported yesterday at an American Heart Association meeting in New Orleans and in the journal Circulation.

Utah Is First to Attain

Low Smoking Rate

Heavily Mormon Utah has become the first and only state to meet the government's goal of reducing the smoking rate to about one in eight adults, federal health officials said yesterday.

The overall smoking rate among U.S. adults continues to drop, falling to 22.1 percent in 2003, the according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That was a decline of just one percentage point from the year before.

"It's a slow decline, but at least it is still is going down," said Corinne Husten, acting director of the Office on Smoking and Health.

But the rate is falling too slowly to meet the government's goal of having a smoking rate of 12 percent or less by 2010, officials said.

Utah met that goal in 2003 with a smoking rate of 12 percent. California had the second-lowest rate at nearly 17 percent. Utah's "strong social prohibitions" against smoking among its predominantly Mormon residents have helped, Husten said.

New Drug Proves Effective

Against Crohn's Disease

An experimental drug that selectively tamps down part of the immune system can offer dramatic relief to many victims of the painful bowel disorder Crohn's disease, and might also work against illnesses such as arthritis and multiple sclerosis, researchers say.

Other drugs are available against Crohn's, but their effectiveness is spotty.

In the small, preliminary study, researchers at the National Institutes of Health and elsewhere found weekly injections ABT-874 reduced symptoms in as many as three-quarters of patients, three times as many as dummy injections.

"A lot of work has to be done, but it's very exciting," said Richard MacDermott, director of Albany Medical Center and scientific consultant to the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America.

The drug's maker, Abbott Laboratories, has not yet decided whether to conduct further tests and seek approval of the drug, spokesman Jim Bozikis said.

The study, headed by Peter Mannon of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was reported in today's New England Journal of Medicine.

-- From News Services