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New research shows benefits of high-intensity statins

statinsIn a study publishing this week in JAMA Cardiology, Stanford researchers show that taking high-intensity statins could increase heart patients’ chances of survival over taking moderate-intensity statins.

There are currently seven main types of statins prescribed in the United States. A set of guidelines put forth by the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association categorizes them into low-intensity, moderate-intensity, and high-intensity statins based on their strength for reducing bad cholesterol.

Some prior studies have shown that powerful, high-intensity statins increased the rates of side effects such as diabetes or muscle damage, creating controversy around the types of statins doctors should prescribe to their patients, if at all.

As Paul Heidenreich, MD, professor of cardiovascular medicine and the study’s senior author, told me: "Previously, there was a certain amount of fear on the patient’s part because most people don’t like taking medication."

For this study, Heidenreich and his colleagues studied the medical records of 509,766 patients in the Veterans Affairs Health Care System. Over a one-year duration, they found that patients on higher-intensity statins had a 9 percent higher survival rate as compared to those on moderate doses. Even in patients over 75 — a population that is largely ignored in studies — higher-intensity statins led to a 9 percent higher survival rate.

As Fatima Rodriguez, MD, a cardiology fellow at Stanford and the study’s lead author, said in our release: "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."

The researchers said their next step is to find out why some patients who should be on high-intensity statins are not. And:

The researchers also hope to follow up on longer-term data from these patient populations. “Not only do we hope to continue studying this population, but we also hope to study patients without prior cardiovascular disease but who are at high risk for it,” said Rodriguez.

Previously: Will new guidelines lead to massive statin use?
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