Quick Study

Statins may not have preventive benefits

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Tuesday, July 6, 2010


THE QUESTION Numerous studies have shown cholesterol-lowering statins to aid in preventing complications and progression of cardiovascular disease, extending the lives of those who take them. But do the drugs do the same for people who do not have the disease and want to keep from developing it?

THIS STUDY compiled and analyzed data from 11 studies, involving 65,229 people, most 50 to 75 years old, who did not have cardiovascular disease but were deemed at moderate to high risk for it. They had been randomly assigned to take a statin or a placebo daily. In about a four-year span, 2,793 people died, with virtually no difference in the mortality rate between those who did and did not take statins. People who took the drug had lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels, but that did not translate to fewer deaths.

WHO MAY BE AFFECTED? People without cardiovascular disease but considered at risk for heart problems. Statins are among the most widely prescribed drugs in the United States for the treatment and prevention of heart disease. An estimated 80 million American adults -- about one of every three -- have some form of cardiovascular disease.

CAVEATS The study did not differentiate between specific statins or dosages, nor did it determine if the drugs might have any longer-term effect.

LEARN MORE ABOUT cardiovascular disease at http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health and http://www.heart.org.

-- Linda Searing

The research described in Quick Study comes from credible, peer-reviewed journals. Nonetheless, conclusive evidence about a treatment's effectiveness is rarely found in a single study. Anyone considering changing or beginning treatment of any kind should consult with a physician.

© 2010 The Washington Post Company

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