THE use of statins can reduce hospital admissions for heart failure by a “clinically important” 10 per cent, according to Scottish scientists.
And the key may be a beneficial side-effect, rather than the drugs’ main function of lowering cholesterol, they said
“The results clearly show a modest but significant benefit”Dr David Preiss
Researchers at Glasgow University analysed results from more than 132,000 patients in 17 separate trials before concluding that reduction in hospital admissions for heart failure over an average of four years’ treatment was “significant”.
They said the benefit was likely to be even greater in the long-term – heart failure is costly, mainly due to frequent and prolonged admissions to hospital, and the condition is associated with a poor prognosis.
Dr David Preiss, clinical senior lecturer at Glasgow University’s Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences, said: “Heart failure is disabling, expensive to treat, especially in more advanced stages, and patients have a poor outcome.
“While it has been assumed that statins reduce the development of heart failure simply because they reduce heart attacks, to our surprise this had not been definitively shown before.
“The results of this meta-analysis clearly show a modest but significant benefit, reducing hospital admission for heart failure by 10 per cent, which is clinically important.”
Dr Preiss told the congress of the European Atherosclerosis Society in Glasgow yesterday: “The 10 per cent reduction in hospital admission for heart failure could easily be an under-estimate of the true effect, given that the trials were only four years’ duration on average, and the data only related to first heart failure events.
“With emerging data showing accrual of benefit from statins in the long term, the 10 per cent reduction is just the beginning of benefit from statin therapy.
“Additionally, if all heart failure admissions were taken into account, we suspect that the benefit would be much larger.
“It is probable that statins decrease the degree of ischaemia that occurs before a heart attack, leading to a decrease in the number of people with other ischaemic events and reducing the chronic impact on the heart.
“However, an unrecognised pleiotropic effect [beneficial side-effect] cannot yet be excluded and further study of the potential mechanism is needed.”
Heart failure develops when the heart is unable to maintain adequate blood flow to meet the needs of the body.
Signs and symptoms include leg swelling, tiredness and shortness of breath, usually worse on exercise. The main cause is coronary artery disease. Typically, as the condition progresses, there are more frequent admissions to hospital and increasing costs associated with treatment.
There are 900,000 people living after heart failure, and the condition accounts for almost 2 per cent of the NHS budget.
Some 5 per cent of all emergency medical admissions to hospital are a result of heart failure and it is feared that, with an ageing population, this figure may increase by at least 50 per cent over the next 25 years.
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