Statins cost-effective in elderly patients: Study

April 23, 2015

Statins could be a cost-effective tool for preventing heart attacks and other cardiovascular incidents in adults over aged 75 years, but the benefits would need to be weighed against potential side effects, a study in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Statins could be a cost-effective tool for preventing heart attacks and other cardiovascular incidents in adults over aged 75 years, but the benefits would need to be weighed against potential side effects, according to a study in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

More than 40% of adults over aged 75 years are already are taking statins. However, medical guidelines for statin use are only for people who start taking statins when they are younger, up to aged 75 years. The drugs are typically prescribed to people who have a history of cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, diabetes or a high probability of a cardiovascular event within 10 years.

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The study’s lead author, Michelle Odden, an assistant professor of epidemiology in Oregon State University's (OSU) College of Public Health and Human Sciences, and colleagues 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 healthcare costs.

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Computer modeling was used 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%, any benefit from statins would be offset.

“Statins were cost-effective when we modeled generic statin costs-$5.59 for a 30-day supply,” said Odden, who is affiliated with OSU’s Center for Healthy Aging Research. “When we conducted a sensitivity analysis using a cost of $30 for a 30-day supply, statins were no longer cost-effective.”

Odden acknowledged that more research is needed on both the potential benefits and harms of statins for primary prevention-prevention in someone without a history of heart disease-in adults aged 75 and older.

“This population has been under-represented in clinical trials,” she said. “For patients, we are in a gray zone. Statins are not clearly all good or all bad, so we recommend that adults over 75 who are interested in starting statins should discuss this with their healthcare provider.”

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