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Statins reduce heart attack and stroke, but not overall death rate, in low-risk group

06/12/2009 - News

Statins reduce heart attack and stroke, but not overall death rate, in low-risk group

By: Susan Aldridge, medical journalist, PhD

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Giving statins to those who don't have heart disease will lower their risk of heart attack and stroke, according to a new analysis.

It is already known that statins - drugs which reduce cholesterol levels - can lower the risk of death from heart disease and stroke among those who have pre-existing cardiovascular disease. It is less clear if there is benefit for those who do not have cardiovascular disease. Current recommendations limit the use of statins to those who have clear risk factors, like diabetes or high levels of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol.

Researchers at the University of Toronto, Canada, now report on an analysis of the use of statins in 42,000 patients of whom 90 per cent had no history of cardiovascular disease. The participants received either a statin or a placebo for at least one year and were followed up for between three and five years. Taking statins was associated with a reduction of nearly 30 per cent in heart attack and 14 per cent reduction in stroke risk. But there was no overall reduction in all cause mortality or death from cardiovascular disease.

Put in context, you would need to treat 60 patients for 4.3 years to avoid one coronary event. One stroke would be avoided if 268 patients were thus treated. Universal cholesterol-lowering with statins may seem like a good idea - but further studies on its cost-effectiveness are needed.

Source
Archives of Internal Medicine 27th November 2006

Created on: 11/29/2006
Reviewed on: 06/12/2009

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