Doctors are looking for people around the world who have had a heart attack. They want to study a new way of preventing people from having any more. Heart patients in southeast Louisiana can be among the first to see if it works.
It's a top killer in the U.S. Even more so in the South.
"Every minute there's somebody getting a heart attack," said Dr. Patrick Delafontaine, the director of the Tulane University Heart and Vascular Institute.
The first is frightening enough. But some people go on to have a second one.
"Even if a person has all the right medications, the right statin, the cholesterol is low, they've quit smoking, they're exercising, they're still at a significant risk of having another heart attack. And that's one of the things we don't understand well," he explained.
If you've had a heart attack, now you can be part of an international study to see if a medication can prevent a second one. It's already approved to lower inflammation for another rare genetic condition, but could it also lower the inflammation in the arteries of the heart that are thought to contribute to heart attacks? That's what doctors want to know.
"It's got the advantage that it's only given once every three months by injection. So it's not a pill that you have to take every day," said Dr. Delafontaine.
Doctors will do a blood test to measure the levels of a heart attack predictor called your C-reactive protein.
"If the patient's is high, they have a high risk of having another event and so those are the ones we want to actually include in the study," he said. If a patient has a normal CRP level, he or she won't qualify for the study.
Sixty to 80 percent of heart attacks are caused by lifestyle: uncontrolled high blood pressure, excessive weight, diabetes and smoking. Those can be prevented or managed by each person. But now doctors are hoping for a new treatment that goes beyond lifestyle change and statin drugs, one of the most prescribed drugs in the world.
"The recurrence of a second heart attack is probably as high as 10 or 15 percent a year, even with maximal therapy. So this is a big issue," said Dr. Delafontaine.
The CANTOS study will involve more than 17,000 heart attack survivors worldwide. If you have had a heart attack, call Tulane's clinical trial division to see if you qualify. All of your exams and treatments will be free. That number is 504-988-0200.
More about the study: http://www.thecantos.org/
The latest news on heart attacks: http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304868404579194101530086112