Statins cut risk of cardiovascular disease in over-75s – researchers

More people over the age of 75 could benefit from statins, scientists have said.

Until now, there had been a lack of evidence about how much the cholesterol-lowering drugs could help older people.

But a review of 28 existing studies found they cut the risk of major cardiovascular disease in all ages, including the over-75s.

The research, published in The Lancet medical journal, examined data for almost 190,000 patients.

More than two-thirds of the 150,000 cardiovascular deaths in the UK each year are in people over 75.

Statins work by cutting levels of LDL, or "bad" cholesterol, in the blood.

Experts behind the study estimate that about a third of the 5.5 million people in the UK over 75 take a statin.

All over 75s should be offered statins but 'ageism' is failing patients
All over 75s should be offered statins but 'ageism' is failing patients

However, they say the "vast majority" of this age group would meet current thresholds for being prescribed the drug.

Professor Colin Baigent, director of the Medical Research Council population health research unit at Oxford University and one of the authors of the paper, told the Guardian: "One of the issues we have is that very often doctors are unwilling to consider statin therapy for elderly people simply because they're old, and that, I think, is an attitude that is preventing us from making use of the tools we have available to us."

Professor Martin Marshall, vice chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said: "It's encouraging to see further research showing that statins are safe and effective drugs that can reduce risk of cardiovascular conditions when prescribed appropriately, as there remains a lot of controversy around their use.

"It's particularly reassuring to see evidence of benefit in patients over the age of 75 – the age group most likely to need cholesterol medication, and who are at risk of heart attacks and strokes.

"Like any medication, statins can have side effects and some patients won't want to take long-term medication.

"But GPs are highly trained to prescribe and will only recommend the drugs if they think they will genuinely help the person sitting in front of them, based on their individual circumstances – and after a frank conversation about the potential risks and benefits."