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Efficacy and safety of statin therapy in older people – expert comment

Statin therapy has been shown to reduce major vascular events and vascular mortality in a wide range of individuals, but there has been uncertainty about its efficacy and safety among older people.

New research looking at statin therapy and published today in The Lancet finds that it reduces the risk of major cardiovascular events irrespective of age.

Reacting to the findings of the study, Liam Smeeth, Professor of Clinical Epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), said:

“This is a very high quality piece of research drawing together all the data we have to answer a focussed question: whether the beneficial effects of statins vary at different ages.  The data used all came from robust randomised controlled trials, the best study design we have to assess the effects of a drug.

“This analysis clearly demonstrates that the benefits of statins in preventing heart attacks and strokes are seen across the full age range.

“Over the years the numbers of older people, particularly those aged over 75, included in randomised trials of statin therapy have been quite small.  This has limited our ability to be certain about the effects of statins in the oldest age groups.

“It remains possible that the beneficial effects of statins are a little less pronounced among the oldest age groups, particularly among people with no existing vascular disease.  However, a protective effect against heart attacks and strokes is still seen among older people, and patients need to be offered statins irrespective of age.

“Future studies including larger numbers of older people without pre-existing cardiovascular disease will help us become more certain about the effects of statins among older people.”

LSHTM is currently investigating the link between statins and muscle pains, reported by some people taking them. The Statin: Web-based Investigation of Side Effects (Statin WISE) trial is funded by the National Institute of Health Research and aims to determine whether muscle pain symptoms occurring during statin use are caused by the drug.