Thursday, June 9, 2011

Statin Risks

As a population we’re living longer. Generally speaking, older individuals are more prone to chronic conditions such as heart disease. With statin drugs continuing to be a mainstream mainstay in the prevention of heart disease, the elderly represent a growing market for these drugs.

While this may be lucrative for pharmaceutical companies, are there any real benefits to be had from prescribing statins to elderly individuals?
One of the most significant trials of statin therapy in the elderly is known as the PROSPER study [1]. In this study, almost 6,000 men and women aged 70-82 were treated with a statin (pravastatin) or placebo for over three years. Each of the individuals in this trial had either a history of cardiovascular disease (e.g. a previous heart attack) or significant risk factors for cardiovascular disease. In this sense, the individuals were deemed to be at relatively high risk of cardiovascular events such as heart attack or stroke. This is relevant as relatively high-risk individuals stand to gain more from statin therapy compared to low-risk individuals.
Risk reduction of non-fatal and fatal heart attacks (added together) was 19 per cent in the group taking the statin. Stroke incidence was not affected. Cancer rates were 25 per cent higher in the group taking pravastatin.
Risk trade offs are a factor to consider.

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