Statins for the primary prevention of cardiovascular events in older adults: a review of the evidence.
BACKGROUND: Although statins have been demonstrated to be beneficial for secondary prevention in the elderly, their use for primary prevention has not been well described. OBJECTIVE: In this review, we summarize data regarding the efficacy, safety, and current recommendations for statins for the primary prevention of cardiovascular events in older adults. METHODS: This review is based on a computerized literature search of the PubMed database for articles published in the English language from January 1980 to June 2006. Key words searched individually and cross-referenced included: statins, HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors, cholesterol, elderly, aged, cardiovascular disease, primary prevention, risk stratification, and C-reactive protein. This search produced 445 citations; reference lists revealed an additional 12 citations, all of which were screened for relevance to the topic. RESULTS: The existing evidence suggests, but does not confirm, benefit from the use of statins for primary prevention in the elderly subgroup (ie, those aged >65 years). Of the 6 published trials of statins for primary prevention, only 3 included subjects aged >75 years, and subgroup results in older adults are unavailable. Current guidelines recommend statins for individuals based on their assessed cardiovascular risk. CONCLUSIONS: Extension of treatment guidelines should consider an individual's global risk of coronary heart disease. However, due to the prevalence of subclinical disease in older adults, risk may be higher or otherwise differ with age. In addition, tolerance for and barriers to adherence with long-term medical therapy are important treatment considerations in older adults. Prospective, randomized controlled trials that better define the tolerability, safety, and efficacy of statin therapy in older adults with elevated cholesterol levels and intermediate cardiovascular risk are needed.
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