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Statins 'linked with falls risk' in older patients

By Nigel Praities

Statins decrease muscle strength and increase the risk of falls in older patients, according to new research.

A study published in the international medical journal QJM found an association between statin use and worse muscle function in adults aged between 50 and 79 years for the first time.

GP experts say the research ‘deserves serious attention' and goes against recent calls for GPs not to overlook cardiovascular risk factors in older patients.

The Australian researchers followed nearly 800 patients in the community over 2.6 years and found a 14% increased falls risk in those taking statins.

At follow-up, statin users also had significantly lower mean leg strength and muscle mass than non-users, when adjusted for age and gender.

The authors concluded: ‘Whilst the observed associations are modest, the association between statin use and muscle performance require further examination given the high prevalence of statin use among the older adult population.'

Dr Terry McCormack, former chairman of the PCCS and a GP in Whitby, Yorkshire, said the paper was interesting, but did not take into account the cardiovascular benefits of statins.

‘I think this paper deserves serious attention and should lead to more studies but I hope it is not used by the Daily Mail just to scare people and stop them taking this very valuable drug,' he said.

Dr George Kassianos, a fellow of the European Society of Cardiology and a GP in Bracknell, Berkshire, said the use of higher doses of statins may be behind the increased risk of muscle problems with statins in older patients.

‘Elderly patients can be more susceptible to muscle pain induced by statins and they tend to be on polypharmacy, therefore there is a greater chance of drug-statin interactions and subsequent muscle pain,' he explained.

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