Statins found to be safe and effective for the elderly


Statin therapy is safe and effective in older people over 75 years and reduces major cardiovascular events such as heart attacks and strokes, according to new research by the University of Sydney's Clinical Trials Centre published in The Lancet.

Statins help lower the level of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in the blood and are prescribed to millions of people globally. Having a high level of LDL cholesterol can lead to hardening and narrowing of the arteries and cardiovascular disease.

Published in The Lancet in early February 2019, the study compared the effects of statin therapy (cholesterol-lowering medication) in nearly 187,000 people who had taken part in 28 large clinical trials. Participants were divided into six different age groups ranging from under 55 years to over 75 years to assess the effects of statins on major vascular events (heart attacks, strokes, coronary revascularisations), cancer incidence and deaths. 

“Statin therapy has been shown to prevent cardiovascular disease in a wide range of people, but there has been uncertainty about its efficacy and safety among older people over 75 years,” said lead investigator, Professor Anthony Keech, Deputy Director of the NHMRC Clinical Trials Centre at the University of Sydney.

“Our study summarised all the available evidence from major trials to help clarify this issue, and found that there were significant reductions in major vascular events in each of the six age groups considered, including in patients aged over 75 years at the start of treatment.”

Most individual statin trials previously considered "elderly" people those aged over 65 years of age. Due to advances in medicine, including the development of pivotal treatments such as statins, life expectancies are now much greater. As a consequence, questions around the effectiveness of treatments in the elderly have focused on even older age groups.

Tony discussed research results with Radio National's Norman Swan. Listen to the interview.

Read more about the study.