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Statins: Benefits Questionable In Low-Risk Patients

Posted Jan 20 2011 10:08pm

There is not enough evidence to recommend the widespread use of statins in people with no previous history of heart disease, according to a new Cochrane Systematic Review. Researchers say statins should be prescribed with caution in those at low risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). CVD is the most common cause of death, accounting for nearly a third of all deaths worldwide. Cholesterol-lowering statins are first line treatments for heart patients and the benefits are well established. However, there is less evidence that statins are beneficial for preventing heart problems in those who have no history of CVD. Given that low cholesterol has been shown to increase the risk of death from other causes, statins may do more harm than good in some patients.

The researchers reviewed data from 14 trials involving 34,272 patients. Outcomes in patients given statins were compared to outcomes in patients given placebos or usual care. Combined data from eight trials involving 28,161 patients that provided data on deaths from all causes showed that statins reduced the risk of dying from 9 to 8 deaths for every 1000 people treated with statins each year. Statins reduced fatal and non-fatal events, including heart attack, stroke and revascularization surgery, as well as blood cholesterol levels.

However, the researchers say that the conclusions of their review are limited by unclear, selective and potentially biased reporting and that careful consideration should be given to patients’ individual risk profiles before prescribing statins.

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