While statins are one of the most commonly used medicines in the world, experts have questioned whether they are actually beneficial for primary prevention of cardiovascular disease (CVD).
In an analysis published in the BMJ, Paula Byrne at the National University of Ireland Galway and colleagues draw on the findings of three recent peer-reviewed papers.
The researchers examined the benefits of statins using only primary prevention data for people with an average age of 62-69 years taking statins for one to five years. While they identified significant reductions in death from any cause, vascular deaths and major coronary or vascular events, when the data were analysed according to baseline risk of developing CVD, most outcomes were not statistically significant, "raising uncertainty about the benefits of statins for primary prevention.”
The analysis also suggested that none of those classified as low or moderate risk of CVD would reach acceptable levels of risk reduction (absolute benefit) to justify taking a daily statin.
The authors argue that in patients at low risk of CVD, statins "may be an example of low value care and, in some cases, represent a waste of healthcare resources."
They say the prescription of statins in primary prevention warrants more careful consideration.