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Should Everyone Over 65 Take a Statin?

Even seniors without known cardiovascular disease may benefit, study suggests, but expert opinions vary

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The study, which did not receive any drug-company or other outside funding, was published Aug. 28 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

In the United States, guidelines already recommend statins for primary prevention of heart attack and stroke, an expert said.

"Statins have been proven to substantially reduce fatal and nonfatal cardiovascular events in individuals without known cardiovascular disease, even among men and women with cholesterol levels considered in the normal range," said Dr. Gregg Fonarow, a spokesman for the American Heart Association.

Guidelines in the United States recommend statin therapy for primary prevention in men and women regardless of age. The guidelines from the European Society of Cardiology, however, do not provide recommendations for statin use in older people, Fonarow said.

The benefits of statins outweigh their risks for primary prevention in the clinical trials conducted so far, said Fonarow, a professor of cardiology at the University of California, Los Angeles.

"As cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death, disability and health care expenditures among men and women age 65 years or older -- and most men and women in this age range are at intermediate or high risk for cardiovascular events -- statins, together with a healthy diet and regular exercise, represent one of the most effective ... strategies for individual and population-level cardiovascular health," Fonarow said.

Cost is a consideration for any drug taken regularly. An April 2012 issue of Consumer Reports noted that statins vary widely in cost -- anywhere from $12 to more than $500 each month. The article, however, listed generic statins that can cost just a few dollars a month when supplied through programs run by major chain stores.

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