Cholesterol Drugs Lower Heart Risk

Statins reduce likelihood of recurrent cardiovascular events in women

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Statins used to lower cholesterol appear to reduce the number of heart events suffered in both men and women. However, such medications were not found to reduce stroke or death in women.

Most clinical trials studying statins have focused on men with cardiovascular disease, so little is known about whether women receive the same benefits.

"Ask your doctor about statin benefits."

Jose Gutierrez, MD, MPH, a lead researcher from Columbia University Medical Center, said the meta analysis revealed that statins lowered the overall risk of heart attack and other cardiac interventions in men and women.

However, when researchers examined the results specifically by gender, statins did not appear to offer protection from stroke or dying to women as compared to taking a placebo.

During the review study, investigators examined 11 clinical trials that included more than 43,000 participants. All of the studies compared statins against inactive drugs in preventing recurrent cardiovascular events and death.

Though researchers did not find that statins could protect women from stroke or dying after a gender specific review, they did caution that a low number of female participants were included in the trials reviewed. About 80 percent of the included participants were men.

Researchers were unsure why women might not receive the same benefit. One possibility was the small sample size of the study.

Investigators did determine that statins are beneficial for women in preventing recurrent cardiovascular events such as heart attacks.

In an accompanying commentary, Fiona Taylor, PhD, HonMFPH, and Shah Ebrahim, DM, FRCP, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in England, said that a strong focus on the small sample size of women included in the study would be misleading.

“The real issue is not significance but whether the effect size in women is materially different from the effect size in men. Over-interpretation of imprecisely estimated effects is a serious problem in meta analyses and in primary studies,” they wrote.

The study was recently published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
June 24, 2012
Last Updated:
June 30, 2012