Are Statins Overprescribed to the Elderly?

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Seniors with no history of heart trouble are now nearly four times more likely – from 9 percent to 34 percent – to get statin drugs than they were in 1999.

Seniors with no history of heart trouble are now nearly four times more likely – from 9 percent to 34 percent – to get statin drugs than they were in 1999.

Inexpensive statin drugs are given to millions of people to reduce cholesterol, even many who do not show signs of heart disease. But a recent study has found that seniors with no history of heart trouble are now nearly four times more likely – from 9 percent to 34 percent – to get those drugs than they were in 1999, according to Kaiser Health News.

Here’s the catch: For patients of that age, there is little research showing statins’ preventive heart benefits outweigh possible risks, which can include muscle pain and the onset of diabetes.  There have only been a handful of studies that included the over-79 population, according to a review in the American Journal of Cardiology in 2012, Kaiser reports.

The rate of statin use among octogenarians and beyond who don’t  have a history of heart attack, stroke, coronary heart disease or vascular heart disease increased four times from 1999 through 2012, according to two researchers from Ohio State University and the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada.  Their research letter was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine in August.

Despite the lack of evidence to guide the use of statins in this population, “the very elderly have the highest rate of statin use in the United States,” they said, citing past studies.

Concerns about statins’ effects in those older than 79 are being raised as some cardiologists question whether statins are overprescribed even among some younger people.

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