November 25, 1997

UNT Health Science Center Produces Results in Major Cholesterol Study

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Cholesterol levels are likely to be scrutinized much more closely by physicians nationwide due to the results of a five-year heart and cholesterol study performed in Texas and reported last week.

The Air Force/Texas Coronary Atherosclerosis Prevention Study (AFCAPS/TexCAPS) was brought to an early close because of overwhelmingly positive results in the prevention of first time coronary incidents such as heart attacks and the onset of severe chest pain, or angina. The study was conducted at the University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth and the Wilford Hall Medical Center at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.

The study, reported at the American Heart Association Scientific Convention, found that Merck & Co.'s cholesterol-lowering drug Mevacor (lovastatin) was effective in preventing first coronary events in healthy men and women with normal and near-normal cholesterol levels. The overall reduction was by 36 percent, a figure dramatic enough to cause early closure of the study.

The study's findings also include a reduced risk of first coronary events in women by
54 percent and in men by 34 percent. The elderly were found to benefit from the drug in ways similar to all other populations.

According to Michael Clearfield, D.O., TexCAPS Principal Investigator and Chairman of Medicine at the UNT Health Science Center, the study is the only primary prevention effort to include participants that represent the general U.S. population, including African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans.

"Treatment of this broader population is likely to bring about the greatest cumulative long term benefit in the prevention of coronary heart disease," said Dr. Clearfield. "These results reinforce the need for all adults to have both LDL (or 'bad') and HDL (or 'good') cholesterol levels regularly checked."

AFCAPS/TexCAPS included 6,605 participants whose average cholesterol levels were 221 at baseline and had average HDL cholesterol levels of 37. A total of 2,868 participants in the study took part through the TexCAPS clinic located on the health science center's campus in Fort Worth's Cultural District. Stephen Weis, D.O., Professor of Medicine at the health science center, was a co-investigator for the study. The remaining participants were studied in San Antonio.

"Persons otherwise thought to have relatively safe cholesterol levels will now be followed more closely by their physicians," said David M. Richards, D.O., president of the UNT Health Science Center. Findings this clearcut and able to be so quickly acted upon are rare in clinical research. Cutting this study short will allow physicians to see "well" patients in a different light starting now."