Even healthy adults could benefit from cholesterol-busting statins
10th July 2012
Current guidelines recommend the prescribing of the cholesterol-lowering medication statins such as Crestor and Lipitor to those people who have a 20% or more chance of developing cardiovascular disease within a decade.  This risk is determined by studying factors including age, blood pressure, if they smoke and also if they suffer from diabetes. As the benefits of statins become more apparent, we have seen in recent months some doctors have considered the possibility of a ‘statins for all’ approach. The argument for the taking of statins on a more widespread basis has been backed up by a recent study that was carried out by researchers at Oxford University, working with counterparts at the University of Sydney. Funded by organisations such as Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation, it entailed a meta-analysis of patient data spanning across 27 separate studies. All trials had analysed the process of lowering ‘bad’ cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein or LDL) within 175,000 people in total and through the use of statin therapy. The primary basis for this thorough analysis appeared to be the consideration if everybody over the age of 50-years old should be given statins, irrespective of if they have any known vascular disease. An editorial that accompanied the review argued that the present guidelines need to be re-evaluated as it may be more cost-effective to prescribe those over 50 with statins, instead of the current method of using costly screening examinations. In their conclusions the researchers said, “The present report shows that statins are indeed both effective and safe for people with a five-year risk of major vascular events lower than 10% who would typically not be judged suitable for statin treatment … and, therefore, suggests that treatment guidelines might need to be reconsidered.” This huge review that further evaluated past research would seem to suggest that statins could indeed benefit those without existing cardiovascular disease and those who are not considered at high risk of developing it.  However, the individual benefit for those at low risk may be limited. In addition, the risk of any possible side effects when giving statins to those over of 50 would have to be taken into account when deducing the overall advantage. However, statins are widely acknowledged to be safe medications by most health professionals and it seems a future where many ‘healthy’ individuals are prescribed statins may be a real possibility.