Statin treatment can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease in women just as it does in men, a large new international study has found.
The research confirms that statins are beneficial not only to women who have already had a cardiovascular event such as a heart attack or stroke, but also in those who- whilst they have not yet developed cardiovascular disease- are at an increased risk of such diseases.
"These results resolve a major uncertainty about the value of treating women with statin therapy, and reinforce the need for recommendations to treat women to be included in national and international guidelines," lead investigator Anthony Keech, Professor of Medicine, Cardiology and Epidemiology at the University of Sydney said.
"It has long been known that, by reducing low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, statin medications prevent heart attacks and strokes in people at risk of these diseases," he said.
However, women tend to develop cardiovascular disease later in life than do men, so have been under-represented in most statin trials.
As a result, the benefits of statin therapy in women have been uncertain, especially in the absence of any previous history of cardiovascular disease.
"This analysis of the effects of statins on 174,000 patients, undertaken by combining results from 27 different trials, shows beyond any reasonable doubt that women gain the same benefits from statins as men," Professor Keech said.
Overall, statin treatment reduced the risk of a major vascular event (heart attack, stroke, bypass surgery, cardiac death) by 21 per cent for each 1 mmol/L reduction in LDL cholesterol achieved.
The percentage risk reductions were similar in women and men, irrespective of any history of cardiovascular disease.
Such benefits from statin treatment translated into a significant reduction (9 per cent risk reduction for each 1 mmol/L reduction in LDL-cholesterol) in the overall risk of death in both men and women - a finding for women which has not been previously reported by any individual statin trial.
"There has been a recent worldwide shift towards recommending treatment with statins to people without existing cardiovascular disease but with a sufficiently high risk of future disease. The results of this study will reassure doctors that these risk-based guidelines for treatment can be applied to men and women equally," Professor Keech said.
The study was published in The Lancet journal.