People who take a statin drug called pravastatin do not receive any benefit in reduced mortality rates, according to a new study.
US scientists found from an analysis into the safety of pravastatin that patients actually had higher mortality rates compared to those not on statins. However, the limited number of deaths in the study rendered the findings statistically insignificant.
Statins, a cholesterol-lowering drug, are prescribed to people with diabetes to lower the risk of heart disease, but evidence is mixed regarding their success. In particular, some research has shown a lack of evidence of benefit in older people.
This new analysis compared findings from a six-year period of 2,867 participants, all of whom were aged 65 years or above and had high blood pressure but no evidence of heart disease.
The participants were either assigned to pravastatin treatment or given normal care, which was defined as when statins were not the first line of treatment.
At the end of the sixth year, 73 per cent of the pravastatin group remained on the drug, while 29 per cent of those in the normal care had been put onto a statin.
The findings revealed that 65-74 year olds were eight per cent more likely to die on pravastatin than normal care within the study period. Those aged 75 years or older were 34 per cent more likely.
Due to the small number of deaths in the study, it cannot be confirmed that pravastatin was linked to a higher risk of death, rather there may be issues with statins leading to higher rates of death in older people.
What was clearer was that “no benefit was found when pravastatin was given for primary prevention to older adults with moderate hyperlipidemia and hypertension”.
The researchers added that deaths specifically from heart disease were not statistically significant between the statins and normal care groups.
The study is published online in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal.