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An analysis of ten trials involving statin therapy among 70,000 participants has led an international team of cardiologists to recommend that that the cholesterol-lowering drugs be prescribed for people who do not have heart disease.
Such therapy could replace the small daily doses of prophylactic aspirin that people take to ward off arterial blockage, they say, because the benefits of statins are demonstrably higher while their drawbacks are much less.
The team's meta-analysis* showed that statin therapy reduced overall mortality by 12 percent, lowered major coronary events by 30 percent, and cut strokes by 19 percent.
The study comes in the wake of the JUPITER trial, a massive study published in 2008. JUPITER indicated that people with high levels of C-reactive protein but normal levels of cholesterol experienced 54 percent fewer heart attacks and 48 percent fewer strokes if they took statins. (C-reactive protein is a marker of inflammation, which is a major factor in diabetes and cardiovascular disease.)
Although this new study supports JUPITER's findings, the researchers undertook it before JUPITER was published because there was a lack of data on whether statins could help prevent heart disease in women and older people. Typically, preventive therapy using statins has been reserved for younger people with diabetes or high blood pressure who are at risk for cardiovascular problems.
By analyzing the data gathered from the 10 trials, the researchers found that 34 percent of the 70,000 total participants were women, and 23 percent were people with diabetes. From that enlarged set of data, the cardiologists concluded that statin therapy should start 10 years earlier with men than with women who have the same pre-heart disease risk factors.
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