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Independents' Day

Statins ‘may only postpone death by three or four days’

Treatment with statins only improves people’s overall survival very slightly, postponing death by around three or four days, a new analysis of trials evidence has found.

The authors of the analysis – published in BMJ Open – said GPs should not push use of statins in people troubled by their side effects or in those with limited life expectancy.

The Danish researchers looked at 11 randomised controlled trials of statins that reported all-cause survival curves, with follow-up lasting between two and six years.

They found statins postponed death by a median of 3.2 days in the six studies where they were being tested for primary prevention, and a median of 4.1 days in five studies of their use for secondary prevention.

The researchers wrote: ’Statin treatment results in a surprisingly small average gain in overall survival within the trials’ running time.’

They said that as a result, when treating people with statin intolerance or in whom treatment is associated with unpleasant side effects, GPs ‘should not be too insistent on the patient continuing them’.

Meanwhile, ‘for patients whose life expectancy is short, the benefit of statin therapy in terms of survival gain may be quite limited’, they wrote.

The team added that explaining to people how much statin treatment is likely to postpone death, rather than using terms like numbers needed to treat, may help people weigh up the benefits and risks of treatment more easily.

BMJ Open 2015; available online 24 September



Readers' comments (9)

  • And yet Atorva is the most valuable drug in history. Altogether now...'we welcome this report, lessons will be learn, we will review'....

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  • If survival benefit is only 3-4 days, should we be prescribing them full stop? Am I missing something?

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  • Is this not exactly what Malcolm Kendrick has been saying for years!

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  • How much are 4 days of life actually worth?

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  • Just how many millions of NHS budgets and how much harm is being caused by prescribing medication which has such little long term benefit?

    Needs some sort of inquiry into NICE me thinks!

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  • Drachula

    Is this really surprising? Max benefit in article -10 to + 27 days life, but what other harms is it preventing? Fewer people actually die of MI these days, being saved by clever cardiologists. Are the statins improving quality of life? (as long as no side effects)
    Conflict of interest - I dislike medicalising people and would rather they went for a run instead!

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  • Yawn... this study just confirms what has been known now for years that not only are statins innefective, they also damage the normal health of many. The following is a link to the huge numbers of patients in the states suing drug companies for the damage their statins caused them. The pharmaceutical companies will not be too concerned as statins are known to be one of the biggest money spinners of all time. You never know a time may come when patients also pursue their doctors for drug induced damages for prescribing these drugs as they should have known about these problems as well as the pharmaceutical companies....

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  • Surely Woscos etc would suggest something different! Has this been published elsewhere? What about secondary prevention?

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  • Upto 20 % increase in Diabetes in people starting Statins, So we treat one risk factor and give another condition to patient. I still suggest Statins as NICE has advised but is it justified I dont know,
    Perhaps I would not opt for statins

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