Statins: Who They Help the Most

Cullen Care Pharmacy owner says statins research could lead to better patient care

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Statins benefit countless patients every day, but they might help some patients more than others.

Patients who have the highest genetic risk of heart attack may derive the most benefits from taking statin medications, a new study found.

Doctors often prescribe statins (brand names Lipitor, Crestor and Zocor) to patients who are at risk of heart attack. Some have raised concern, however, that these medications may be overused. That's where the findings from the current study could come in.

“There is ongoing debate over which individuals should be allocated statin therapy to prevent a first heart attack,” said study leader Nathan O. Stitziel, MD, a Washington University in St. Louis cardiologist and human geneticist, in a press release. “Some have said we should be treating more people, while others say we need to treat fewer. As an example of precision medicine, another approach is to identify people at high risk and preferentially prescribe statin therapy to those individuals. Genetics appears to be one way to identify high-risk patients.”

This type of genetic analysis is not yet available to patients, Dr. Stitziel said.

"However, if health care professionals were better able to target patients who needed statins the most, care could improve," said James H. Dykes, RPh, owner of Cullen Care Pharmacy in Houston, TX."If we could get statins to the patients who need them the most, we could help patients where it counts. To fight heart attacks, we have to care for the most at-risk patients."

To conduct their study, Dr. Stitziel and team looked at nearly 50,000 patients who were enrolled in past studies. Using DNA analysis, they split the patients according to how the level of genetic heart attack risk they faced.

Statins appeared to lower heart attack risk by 13 percent among patients who were at low genetic risk. Among patients with intermediate risk, that figure was 29 percent.

But for those at high genetic risk, statins may provide a 48 percent reduction in heart attack risk, Dr. Stitziel and colleagues found.

This study was published March 4 in The Lancet.

The authors disclosed several conflicts of interest, such as funds from pharmaceutical companies like Bayer, Janssen and Bristol-Meyers Squibb, among others.

Review Date: 
March 4, 2015
Last Updated:
March 6, 2015