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Americans arteries are not just clogged--theyre swollen Wildly popular drugs like Lipitor and Zocor cut down on deaths from heart attacks and strokes by lowering blood cholesterol but theyre not enough Despite them cardiovascular disease kills 94600 Americans every year If we put these drugs in tap water cardiovascular disease would still be a leading cause of death says Steven E Nissen a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic Half of all hart disease patients dont even have a high cholesterol a fact that confounds the laymans myth that heart attacks are caused by cholesterol clogging up the bodys plumbing like grease in pipes While lowering cholesterol helps it only partially heads off the real danger the bodys own inflammatory response Swelling of vessel walls causes cholesterol plaques to rupture A clot form around the loose gunk creating a blockage that starves the heart of oxygen killing part of it The scary part in this chain of events is that it can happen to anyone at any time Its not the size of your blockage that determines whether youre going to have a heart attack or not Your heart attack may occur in some part of the artery that looks normal to us says Russell Medford chief executive of drug firm AtheroGenics in Alpharetta Ga There is far more that medical science can do to detect and treat inflammation In January the American Heart Association and the Centers for Disease Control Prevention recommended that doctors add a test for C-reactive protein a measure of cardiac inflammation to the established predictors of heart attacks like high cholesterol or blood pressure But one company tiny AtheroGenics has a pill that promises to save lives by reducing the swelling After ten years of work Medford is finally steering his experimental drug AGI-1067 into late-stage clinical trials This summer the company will begin a 40 million two-year 4000-patient trial to see if taking the pill in addition to existing
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