Statins May Work Better in Men Than in Women
Analysis Fails to Show Stroke Reduction, Survival Benefit in Women
Risk, Benefits Unclear in Women
But cardiologist Rita F. Redberg, MD, says it is far from clear that this is the case, because so few women have been included in past clinical trials.
Redberg is director of Women's Cardiovascular Services at the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center, and she was an editor of the new study.
"Although there is a growing interest in personalized medicine, we still lack high-quality data on the largest group of patients in practice -- women," she wrote.
Redberg tells WebMD that since women tend to have a low risk for heart disease until they reach their mid-70s, it makes sense that they might not benefit as much as men do from statins.
She says that for most younger women, the risks of taking statins probably outweigh the benefits.
Muscle aches and problems with memory have been reported in statin users.
"If a woman is going to take a drug that might worsen her quality of life she needs to know there is a benefit," she says. "For most women, the evidence just is not there for statins."
She says at-risk women derive more benefit from making lifestyle changes to improve their heart health, such as not smoking, eating a healthy diet, and getting regular exercise.
Gutierrez agrees that addressing lifestyle is critical for women with heart disease, as is controlling diabetes, high blood pressure, and other health conditions that can lead to heart attack and stroke.
"Statins are not going to make a lot of difference if these issues aren't addressed," he says. "But I would feel terrible if even one woman didn't take statins because of this research. That is not the message."