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Statins Reduce Heart Attack and Stroke Risk in Patients with no Cardiac History
Written by Jeanne Bohm, Ph.D.   
Statins may reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke even in patients with no cardiovascular disease, according to an article in the November 27 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

Statins have been shown to reduce death and morbidity related to heart and cerebrovascular disease among patients with cardiac problems. Current national treatment guidelines recommend the use of statins based on their cardiovascular risk profile and LDL-C level. However, it is an open question if statins also reduce risk in people without cardiovascular disease. 

To address this question, Paaladinesh Thavendiranathan and colleagues at the University of Toronto performed a meta-analysis of seven previously published clinical trials that identified the benefits of statins in 42,848 patients, 90 percent of whom had no cardiovascular disease.

Their major finding was that normal patients who took statins had a reduced risk of coronary and cerebrovascular incidents. Overall statin use reduce the risk of a major cardiac event from 5.7% to 4% over a 4.3 year period. Interestingly, though, there was no significant difference among control and statin groups in death rates either from cardiovascular disease in specific or from all causes.

Despite this benefit in non-fatal morbidity, however, it is not clear if statin use is warranted in the normal population. The authors write that "...60 patients would need to be treated for an average of 4.3 years to prevent one major coronary event." Even more patients (268) would need to be treated to prevent one major cerebrovascular event. Given the expense and potential side effects of statin use, further study is needed to verify the cost-effectiveness of stain therapy in this group.


AMA Media Release

Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Diseases With Statin Therapy: A Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Arch Intern Med. 2006;166:2307-2313.

About the Author

Jeanne Bohm, Ph.D. is a cancer biologist by training, a medical writer and an experienced science educator.

The author has no financial relationship to any of the companies listed in the article.

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