Statins `key to beat heart disease`

Updated: Aug 11, 2012, 13:12 PM IST

London: Potent statins can help people live longer and slash the risk of an early death, a new study has found.

According to experts, the cholesterol-busting pills cut death rates from heart disease and strokes and protect against serious infections and respiratory illnesses such as pneumonia.

A new study has found that although statins slightly raise the chance of some “at risk” patients developing diabetes, the benefits of the pills in reducing the likelihood of cardiovascular disease far outweigh any risks.

More than seven million people take statins daily to lower harmful levels of artery-clogging “bad” LDL cholesterol.

The latest positive evidence of the life-extending effects of the drugs comes from a study in America.

Experts at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, analysed data gathered during the Jupiter trial, which was the first controlled study to show that statins increased the risk of developing diabetes.

As with all drugs, statins bring both benefits and side effects. But statins can save lives

Professor Paul Ridker, who led the team of scientists, said he hoped the results would “ease concern” as they showed that the “absolute benefits of statin therapy are greater than the hazards of developing diabetes”.

His team found marked differences in the likelihood of getting diabetes which depended on whether the patient was already at risk of developing the disease.

They said that although the use of statins clearly increased the likelihood of developing diabetes in patients already at risk of the disease, these patients were still 39 percent less likely to develop cardiovascular illness while using statins, and 17 percent less likely to die over the five-year trial period.

However, there was no increased risk of diabetes in patients not already at risk of developing the disease – and taking statins more than halved the likelihood of cardiovascular illness.

Patients who had at least one risk factor for diabetes were 28 percent more likely to develop diabetes when using statins, compared to patients in the control group.

The researchers found no discernible increase in the risk of developing diabetes for patients who did not have any risk factors for diabetes.

“Our results show that in participants with and without diabetes risk, the absolute benefits of statin therapy are greater than the hazards of developing diabetes. We believe that most physicians and patients would regard heart attack, stroke and death to be more severe outcomes than the onset of diabetes,” the Daily Express quoted Professor Ridker as saying.

“So we hope that these results ease concern about the risks associated with statin therapy when these drugs are appropriately prescribed – in conjunction with improved diet, exercise and smoking cessation – to reduce patients’ risk of cardiovascular disease,” he added.

The study has been published online in The Lancet.