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Statins ineffective for over-75s

Wednesday 24th May 2017
Statins may not be as effective as previously thought in preventing premature death among over-75s, according to a new study. Image: rogerashford via iStock
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Statins, the medication often prescribed to patients to control their cholesterol levels and associated heart attack risk, may be ineffective for over-75s, a new study has suggested.
 
This is the claim of research carried out by scientists based at the New York School of Medicine, who found that patients' age could be a key factor in the effectiveness of statins on reducing their heart disease risk.
 
The team analysed data relating to two groups of patients; one aged 65 to 74 and one aged 75 and above, all of whom had high blood pressure. Approximately half of the participants were taking the commonly-prescribed statin pravastatin, while the remaining 50 per cent were receiving other care designed to lower cholesterol levels.
 
Over the course of a six-year study period, 141 deaths occurred among the 65 to 74-year-olds who were taking statins, while 130 were recorded among those receiving other forms of cholesterol-lowering care.
 
For over-75s, statins were found to be even less effective at preventing death, with 92 fatalities recorded among those taking the drugs compared to 65 among those in the other group.
 
However, statin use over a period of years was found to reduce the risk of heart disease development across both age groups, suggesting that while these drugs may not be the most effective in preventing premature death due to high cholesterol levels, they can help to stop the onset of cardiovascular disease.
 
Commenting on the study, Professor Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: "This study calls into question whether [statins] work in older people with moderate cholesterol levels.
 
"However, the statin used in the study, pravastatin, is no longer prescribed to lower cholesterol and has since been replaced by stronger statins. This could have an impact on the results so more research is needed to confirm the findings, based on current best practice."
 
Even though the drug used in the trial is no longer prescribed to patients, this research raises questions about the effectiveness of other statins and how age plays a factor in their efficiency too.
 
Written by James Puckle
 
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