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Taking statins in the run-up to a stroke dramatically improves survival, a new UK study concludes.

Patients taking statins prior to stroke were 76 per cent less likely to die in the following month than those not on the drugs, researchers found.

The protective effect remained substantial throughout a follow-up period that averaged 2.4 years.

Study leader Dr Stella Aslanyan, research fellow in the division of cardiovascular and medical sciences at Western Infirmary in Glasgow, admitted the issue was 'controversial' and needed more research.

She said: 'There is now evidence that statins could have neuroprotective effects. The next step is a clinical trial which starts in patients just after stroke onset.'

Researchers compared 205 patients who had been taking statins prior to stroke and 410 matched controls with no reported statin use.

Their study, which is published in July's European Journal of Neurology, found 3.9 per cent of patients in the statin group died in the first month compared with 7.3 per cent of controls. Over the entire follow-up period, 13 per cent per of patients on statins and 20 per cent of controls died.

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