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New debate over statin role

The push to ever-greater use of statins has received a severe jolt after a new meta-analysis found the drugs had few benefits in primary prevention.

A meta-analysis of studies on more than 42,000 patients found statins had no significant effect on overall mortality.

And while there was some sign of a fall in coronary heart disease mortality, the 23 per cent reduction did not reach statistical significance.

The findings stoke the debate over statins use, providing ammunition for those who believe there is little evidence to justify the unchecked expansion.

Dr Niteesh Choudhry, a researcher on the study and an instructor at Harvard Medical School in Massachusetts, US, said: 'In patients without cardiovascular disease, statin therapy decreases incidence of major coronary and cerebro- vascular events – but not CHD or overall mortality.'

Dr George Kassianos, CHD lead for Bracknell Forest PCT and a GP in Bracknell, Berkshire, questioned whether the studies included had been sufficiently aggressive in reducing cholesterol levels. 'I would like to see a study for primary prevention that the LDL target was below 2. That would show us if statins can do it or not.'

The findings appear in this week's Archives of Internal Medicine.

• For more information on statins

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