Intended for healthcare professionals


New analysis fuels debate on merits of prescribing statins to low risk people

BMJ 2014; 348 doi: (Published 26 March 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g2370
  1. Zosia Kmietowicz
  1. 1BMJ

The controversy concerning the prescribing of statins to a wider section of the population showed no signs of abating this week after a new analysis—this time of high quality observational studies involving data on millions of patients—found that the risk of harmful effects from statins was very small and similar to those seen in clinical trials.1

The finding is fuelling the debate on whether statins should be extended to healthy people who are at low risk of cardiovascular disease, as recommended in draft guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).2

The latest research comes just two weeks after the publication of a meta-analysis of 29 randomised controlled trials that found that serious adverse events occurred just as often in patients taking a placebo (14.9% of patients in primary prevention trials and 11.2% of those in secondary prevention trials) as they did in patients taking statins (14.6% for primary and 9.9% for secondary prevention).3

That the two recent analyses concur gives leverage to people who say that statins should be more widely used to prevent cardiovascular disease because the risks associated with taking them are very small.

Arguments about how far statins should be used in preventing cardiovascular disease intensified at the weekend when …

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