Statin drug benefits outweigh the risks, government-backed panel says

Statin drug benefits outweigh the risks, government-backed panel says

Panel is recommending statin drugs for adults as young as 40 to lower risk of cardiovascular issues.

The United States Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF), a government-backed panel, has recommended starting adults as young as 40 on prescription statin drugs to lower their cholesterol, according to Reuters.

The panel says adults aged 40 to 75 who have at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease, plus a 10 percent risk of heart attack or stroke within the next ten years, should be taking a low-to-moderate dose of statin drugs.  They also said doctors with a patient with a 7.5 to 10 percent risk of cardiovascular disease should consider prescribing the drugs as well.

Cholesterol is a type of fat that can build up and lead to clogged arteries, increasing the risk of heart problems and strokes.  Statin drugs work to lower the amount of cholesterol by blocking production in the individual’s liver.

The USPSTF is making this recommendation based on data from 18 controlled trials comparing statin use in people without previous heart attacks, and comparing the results to other subjects who were given placebos or no medication at all.

The panel said the side effects of taking statin drugs, such as muscle weakness, liver problems, or diabetes, were not significantly increased by the drugs, and the benefits were consistent across people with different types of risk factors.

The findings show that people taking statins were 28 percent less likely to experience a stroke, 37 percent less likely to have a heart attack, and 31 percent less likely  to have other types of cardiovascular problems as well.

In fact, the people taking the cholesterol-lowering drugs were 17 percent less likely to die from any cause than their non-statin taking counterparts.

Dr. Douglas Owens, of Stanford University in California and a member of the USPSTF told Reuters in addition to a healthy lifestyle, statins are useful for people with an elevated risk for heart disease, and the panel felt the benefits outweigh any potential harms.

The new recommendations are inline with earlier recommendations from the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology posted in 2013.

About 36 million Americans are currently taking statin drugs for lowering cholesterol, according to the USPTF.

The organization has made the recommendations available for public comment on its website until January 25 of next year.

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