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Cholesterol drugs could have striking benefits in stroke

Study published in The BMJ shows promise for older population

AstraZeneca AZ Crestor rosuvastatin

Using cholesterol-lowering drugs such as statins can lower risk of stroke in older adults by almost a third and the link should be investigated further, according to a study published in The BMJ.

Over nine years researcher followed 7,484 men and women in France with an average age of 74 years with no history of vascular events and found that use of lipid lowering drugs (fibrates or, more commonly, statins) was associated with a 30% lower risk of stroke compared to non-users, but no link was found between the drug use and coronary heart disease.

Graeme Hankey, professor of neurology at the University of Western Australia, said that although the study will not change guidelines, the results “are sufficiently compelling to justify further research testing the hypothesis that lipid lowering may be effective in the primary prevention of stroke in older people.”

The observational nature of the study means that a definitive conclusion cannot be drawn but researchers say that if replicated in a clinical environment, lipid-lowering drugs could be considered for the prevention of stroke in the older population.

Hankey says the decision to start statins for primary prevention of vascular disease in people over 75 years old “continues to be based on sound clinical judgment” after considering each person's predicted vascular risk with and without statins, their predicted risk of adverse effects and the patient's own priorities and preferences for treatment.

In France in 2010, people aged 85 years and over accounted for 43% of deaths from coronary heart disease and 49% of deaths from stroke and lipid lowering drugs are widely used to prevent heart disease and stroke in older age groups. 

Last year NICE issued new guidance recommending more people in the UK at risk of heart disease should be taking a statin, such as AstraZeneca's Crestor (rosuvastatin) – pictured above.

This followed 2013 guidelines from the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology calling for a more nuanced approach to statin prescribing that considerably widened the number of patients recommended to take them.

Article by
Kirstie Pickering

20th May 2015

From: Healthcare

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