Statins have a proven range of clinical benefits
A cholesterol-lowering statin drug can significantly cut the risk of potentially fatal blood clots, US research suggests.
In trials rosuvastatin cut the risk of venous thromboembolism (VTE) in healthy people by 43%.
Forms of VTE include deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism, the most common cause of preventable death in hospital patients.
The study appears in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Deep vein thrombosis:
An early form of VTE in which blood clots develop in the legs or pelvis
Part of a clot breaks off and lodges in the arteries that supply the lungs.
People who face prolonged periods of immobility at increased risk
More than 25,000 people a year die in Britain after developing fatal blood clots.
It is estimated that 52% of hospital patients in the UK are at risk of developing DVT.
However, the MPs' report published in November 2007 said that less than half are made aware of the risks, and only a third will be risk assessed by a healthcare professional.
DVT has also been associated with long-haul air travel, where passengers have limited opportunity to move around.
The latest, long-term study, presented at an American College of Cardiology conference, was based on 17,802 healthy men and women.
Statins have already been shown to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Rosuvastatin, manufactured by AstraZeneca and marketed as Crestor, is just one type of the drug. Other brands were not tested in the current trial.
Lead researcher Dr Paul Ridker, of Brigham and Women's Hospital, said: "The clinical bottom line here is simple, in addition to reducing risks of heart attack and stroke, we now have hard evidence that aggressive statin therapy reduces life-threatening blood clots in the veins."
Dr Ridker added that statin therapy carried no risk of excess bleeding - a side effect associated with alternative blood-thinning treatments such as warfarin.
Professor Peter Weissberg, medical director of the British Heart Foundation, welcomed the study.
He said: "Further clinical trials are now needed to see if patients at high risk of a DVT are protected by statins.
"If they are, the findings could lead to such patients being prescribed statins to protect them in the future."