Too Many Cholesterol Meds for Elderly Patients?

Statin use increased substantially among very elderly patients

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

(RxWiki News) For patients with heart disease, cholesterol-lowering statins are often the first line of defense. But it seems that many doctors are prescribing statins to elderly patients without heart disease — and that could be a problem.

A new study found that statin use in patients age 80 or older without heart disease has increased significantly since 1999.

There are no clear recommendations for statin use among this population.

"Caution should be exercised given the potential dangers of expanding marginally effective treatments to untested populations," wrote lead study author Michael E. Johansen, MD, a professor of clinical family medicine at Ohio State University, and colleagues.

Statins (brand names Lipitor, Crestor, Zocor, among others) are drugs used to lower cholesterol.

Dr. Johansen and team used the 1999 to 2012 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey to look at more than 13,000 patients.

The rate of statin use in very elderly patients without heart disease rose almost fourfold between 1999 and 2011 — from 8.8 percent in 1999 to 34.1 percent in 2011.

This means that very elderly patients are prescribed statins at the highest rate of any age group in the US.

Although Dr. Johansen and team did not look at potential health problems linked to this increase, they noted that little is known about how statins affect elderly patients without heart disease.

This study was published Aug. 24 in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

No funding sources or conflicts of interest were disclosed.

Review Date: 
August 21, 2015
Last Updated:
August 30, 2015