5 Things From the American Heart Association Meeting

The meeting in New Orleans featured surprising clinical findings and some attention-grabbing consumer news.

The American Heart Association’s recent Scientific Sessions in New Orleans, November 11-16, 2016, featured a mix of surprises about drugs already on the market, as well as consumer-oriented studies about diet and exercise. Here are 5 takeaways from the meeting:

1. Celecoxib is safer than ibuprofen and naproxen. The surprising findings from the PRECISION trial, presented by Cleveland Clinic cardiologist Steven E. Nissen, MD, turned heads with the news that celecoxib, part of the class of pain medication called Cox-2 inhibitors—actually have a lower risk of adverse effects than commonly used pain relievers ibuprofen and naproxen. Nissen’s findings, which were simultaneously published in the New England Journal of Medicine, will likely change clinical practice.

2. Unexpected benefits from PCSK9 inhibitors. Is there a point at which pushing low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) to lower levels stops offering a cardiovascular benefit? Perhaps not, according to another study Nissen presented. Called GLAGOV, this trial found that using evolocumab, a proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9 (PCSK9) inhibitor, to push LDL-C down to levels as low as 20 mg/dL produced measurable regression of atherosclerosis, a condition in which plaque accumulates in the arteries.

3. Marijuana linked to heart malfunction in young men. With recreational marijuana winning approval in more states on Election Day, there was interest in a population health study that found a connection between frequent marijuana use among young men and higher incidence of cardiomyopathy, a heart malfunction more commonly seen among women in their mid-60s. The researchers said the findings should give public officials pause before expanding legal marijuana use.

4. Can education achieve as much as a soda tax? Results from a comprehensive public health initiative in Howard County, Maryland, found that a wide-ranging effort that combined education, advertising, and laws to limit access to sugary beverages on public property cut consumption of soda about 20%. That’s significant because it’s almost as much as what has been reported in early results from Berkeley, California’s soda tax. The American Beverage Association issued a response that the results are preliminary and have not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

5. At-risk patients stop taking anticoagulants. High numbers of patients most at risk of a stroke stop taking anticoagulant medication, according to findings of a data-sharing initiative by Boehringer Ingelheim (the maker of Pradaxa) and the health plan Anthem. The study found 23% stopped taking their medication within 3 months and three-fourths had stopped at around the 2-year mark. The next phase of the study will try to find out why patients stop taking anticoagulants.