Statins could be a cost-effective tool for preventing heart attacks and other cardiovascular incidents in adults over age 75, but the benefits would need to be weighed against potential side effects, a study being published this week in the Annals of Internal Medicine has found.
“Statins look promising as an intervention for this population, but there are concerns about potential physical or cognitive side effects,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Michelle Odden, an assistant professor of epidemiology in OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences.
“It’s not all good or all bad; we’re in a gray area,” said Dr. Odden, who is affiliated with OSU’s Center for Healthy Aging Research. “That’s where patient preference becomes important. People who are concerned about the side effects should have a conversation with their health care provider.”
Researchers examined whether statins should be routinely given to older adults who are not already taking them as prevention against heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular events that can affect quality of life and drive up health care costs.
They used computer modeling to estimate the cost-effectiveness, including risks and benefits, of statin use among older adults. The findings indicated that statin use can help prevent cardiovascular incidents, but if that use increased the risk of physical or cognitive side effects by roughly 10 to 30 percent, any benefit from statins would be offset.
“We don’t know what the true risk is,” Dr. Odden said. “But we know statin use is very sensitive to these other risks in older populations.”
Statins are a class of drugs used to lower cholesterol and prevent cardiovascular disease caused by high cholesterol. Many types of statins are available in generic form, which keeps drug costs low. Use of such drugs to prevent a significant cardiac event could reduce overall health care costs and improve the quality of life of older adults, Dr. Odden said.