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Statins cut vascular events in elderly patients

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Statin therapy should be considered for patients older than 75 years

Statin therapy is often discontinued for older patients who have concomitant disease or other considerations, but it should still be considered in older patients when the benefits outweigh the risks, Bernard M.Y. Cheung, PhD, and Karen S.L. Lam, MD, wrote in a related editorial.

“Even if the relative risk reduction in people older than 75 years is less than expected, statin therapy might still be justified by a high baseline cardiovascular risk, which is usually present in older people,” they said.

One explanation for the decreased relative risk reduction among older patients from the results by Fulcher et al. in the Cholesterol Treatment Trialists’ (CTT) Collaboration trial could have been the inclusion of older patients with cardiac and renal failure, and treating patients with lower cardiac risk or lowering LDL cholesterol in patients at risk of cardiovascular events can help prevent major vascular events later.

Ultimately, no drug is harmless and the risk and benefits must be weighed before making a decision to use statins with older patients just as they would in any other patient population. “The challenge for the health-care profession and the media is to convey risks and benefits in ways that patients can understand, enabling them to make an informed choice,” the authors wrote.

Dr. Cheung and Dr. Lam are from the department of medicine at Queen Mary Hospital, University of Hong Kong in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China. They had no relevant disclosures.



Statin therapy appears to reduce the risk of major vascular events for patients of all age groups, but there is less evidence that older patients with evidence of occlusive vascular disease benefit from the treatment, according to a recent meta-analysis of 28 trials from the Cholesterol Treatment Trialists’ Collaboration published in The Lancet.

Louise Koenig/MDedge News

Statins are “useful and affordable drug[s] that reduce heart attacks and strokes in older patients. Until now there has been an evidence gap and we wanted to look at their efficacy and safety in older people,” Jordan Fulcher, BSc (Med), MBBS, from the Cholesterol Treatment Trialists’ (CTT) Collaboration and the University of Sydney stated in a press release. “Our analysis indicates that major cardiovascular events were reduced by about a fifth, per mmol/L lower LDL cholesterol, by statin therapy across all age groups. Despite previous concerns, we found no adverse effect on cancer or nonvascular mortality in any age group.”

The researchers examined 186,854 participants from 28 CTT trials undergoing statin therapy, of whom 14,483 (8%) were older than 75 years. Patients were divided into six groups based on age and examined the risk of major cardiovascular events such as stroke, coronary revascularization and major coronary events, as well as the incidence of cancer and vascular mortality.

Among all age groups, there was a significant reduction in major vascular events, with a 21% proportional per 1.0-mmol/L reduction in LDL cholesterol (risk ratio, 0.79; 95% confidence interval, 0.77-0.81) among patients receiving statin therapy or a more intensive statin regimen, and there was a 24% proportional reduction (RR, 0.76; 95% CI, 0.73-0.79) of major coronary events per 1.0-mmol/L reduction in LDL cholesterol, with older age resulting in a lower proportional reduction of major coronary events (P = .009). The researchers also found a proportional reduction of coronary revascularization procedures by 25% (RR, 0.75; 95% CI, 0.73-0.78) and stroke by 16% (RR, 0.84; 95% CI, 0.80-0.89) among patients of any age group receiving statin therapy or more intensive statin regimen, with no significant differences between age groups.

There was a 12% proportional reduction in vascular mortality per 1.0-mmol/L reduction in LDL cholesterol (RR, 0.88; 95% CI, 0.85-0.91), but this statistic did not remain significant after the researchers excluded four trials that included patients with heart failure or who were receiving renal dialysis. After excluding these trials from the overall analysis, the researchers found the smaller proportional reductions persisted for older patients for major coronary events (P = .01) but was no longer significant for major vascular events.

The researchers noted their study was limited by the highly selected patient population, low percentage of patients older than 75 years, including trials with efficacy endpoints where some nonserious adverse events may not have been recorded, and not including some trials in the meta-analysis if they were not part of the CTT.

This study was funded by Australian National Health and Medical Research Council, National Institute for Health Research Oxford Biomedical Research Centre, UK Medical Research Council, and British Heart Foundation. The authors have reported personal fees, grants, and consulting fees from Abbott, Aegerion, Amgen, Arisaph, AstraZeneca, Bayer, Beckmann, Berlin-Chemie, Boehringer Ingelheim, Daiichi Sankyo, Dalcor, DuPont, Esperion, GlaxoSmithKline, ISIS Pharmaceuticals, Kowa, Mylan, Pfizer, Roche, Sanofi, Singulex, The Medicines Company, and Vatera Capital, as well as the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, National Institute for Health Research Oxford Biomedical Research Centre, Medical Research Council, Nuffield Department of Population Health, Weill Cornell Medicine, and UK Biobank.

SOURCE: Fulcher J et al. Lancet. 2019;393:407-15.

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