Do statins work better for men than for women Drugs are better at preventing deaths and strokes

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UPDATED:

00:54 GMT, 26 June 2012

Statins do not significantly cut the risk of suffering a stroke for women, research claim

Statins do not significantly cut the risk of suffering a stroke for women, research claim (picture posed by model)

Statins work far better for men than they do for women, researchers claim.

The cholesterol-busting drugs have been found to be more effective at preventing deaths and strokes in male patients.

American researchers who looked at the health records of 43,000 people discovered that in men, statins reduced the overall risk of dying by 21 per cent.

They also cut their chances of strokes by a similar proportion, 19 per cent.

But in women, they claimed statins did not significantly cut the risk of suffering a stroke or dying.

However the research flies in the face of larger studies which concluded that statins provide benefits for both sexes.

Around eight million adults in the UK take some form of statin and they are usually prescribed following a heart attack, stroke or bypass surgery.

They reduce the amount of bad cholesterol in the arteries – waxy-like material that can build up and cause heart damage or strokes.

To compare their effects on men and women, researchers from Columbia University, New York, looked at 11 existing trials.

The study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, found that statins reduced the likelihood of heart attack or damage to the heart by about 20 per cent.

But oddly, women on statins were not less likely to die or suffer a stroke compared to those taking ‘placebos’, or dummy drugs.

Lead
researcher Jose Gutierrez of Columbia University Medical Centre, New
York, said: ‘In our results, the benefit associated with statin
administration in women did not reach statistical significance compared
with placebo in at least two outcomes, all-causes mortality and any
stroke type.

Statins are used to reduce the amount of bad cholesterol on artaries and are often prescribed to patients who have suffered heart attacks or strokes

Statins are used to reduce the amount of bad cholesterol on artaries and are often prescribed to patients who have suffered heart attacks or strokes

‘The reason for this difference is uncertain. One possibility is that the small sample size of women limits the power of the study.’

He also suggested that differences in women’s bodies and hormones compared to men may cause statins to be less effective.

But other experts disputed the findings, claiming the scientists had only looked at a small number of women.

Only a fifth of the 43,000 patients involved were women, the remainder men.

Professor Jeremy Pearson, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation said: ‘This study is limited because it only looked at a small number of women who had strokes.

‘Statins work to prevent heart patients from developing further heart problems, whatever their gender. It’s important that you keep taking your statins as prescribed.’

Last month a study of 170,000 patients by Oxford University claimed that statins could save 2,000 lives a year, in both sexes.

Researchers said the benefits were so good that everyone should consider taking them.

Shah Ebrahim, Professor of Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: ‘Recent studies that have used all the evidence come to clear conclusions: both women and men benefit from taking statins.’