A double-dose of statins could help millions of patients cut their risk of dying by up to a fifth, a major study claims.
The research by Stanford University School of Medicine on 500,000 people with heart disease found that those given a high dose of statins had far greater survival chances.
Standard NHS practice is to start off such patients on a moderate dose of statins – increasing the amount if the drugs fail to lower cholesterol levels.
But the research suggests millions of patients fare best if put straight on to the strongest drugs.
When data was adjusted to take of other differences in risk factors between patient groups, the mortality differences between those on high and moderate doses of statins amounted to around 9 per cent.
Dr Fatima Rodriguez, the study’s lead author, said: “The results show that high intensity statins confer a survival advantage for patients with cardiovascular disease.
“This suggests to practitioners that instead of starting a patient on a low dose, just to go ahead and put them on the maximum dose they can tolerate.”
Professor Jeremy Pearson, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, said: “This large study showed that more intensive statin treatment reduced death rates further than low-intensity or no treatment in people with cardiovascular disease.
“While this research confirms the greater benefit of more intensive treatment, decisions on dosage require conversations between patients and their doctors.”
Moderate doses in the study included 20 to 40mg simvastatin or 10mg to 20g atorvastatin a day.
High dose therapy regimes included were at least twice as strong, including 80 mg simvastatin daily or 40 to 80mg of atorvastatins.
Statins are used to reduce high levels of blood cholesterol, which is known to contribute to the stiffening and narrowing of arteries.
There are many versions of the drugs, some more potent than others.
The new research follows controversy over the safety of the drugs, and debate about levels of side-effects, such as nausea, muscle pain and an increased risk of diabetes.
Source: Telegraph UK