Previous trials were too small to provide definitive evidence that statin therapy would help women and older people who had risk factors for heart disease, he said. In the studies that were amassed for the meta-analysis, 34 percent of participants were women and 23 percent had diabetes.
Age should be a major consideration when considering statin therapy, but gender should also be taken into account, said Dr. Jacob W. Deckers of the department of cardiology at Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands, a member of the international team. The study indicates that statin therapy should be started 10 years earlier in men than in women with the same risk factors, he said.
"Statins should be prescribed in older men with a single risk factor and in older women with several risk factors," he said.
Only minimal side effects of statin therapy were found in the meta-analysis, Deckers said. No increased risk of cancer was seen, and the incidence of myalgia, the muscle pain that can accompany statin use, was one case in 10,000 persons, he said.
Many people who now take aspirin to reduce cardiovascular risk would be better off with statin therapy, Deckers said. Aspirin's anti-clotting effects reduce the risk of artery blockage but increase the risk of excess bleeding, he noted.
"It would be better to switch to a statin because of a better benefit-risk ratio," Deckers added. "With aspirin, the benefit is relatively low and the risk is relatively high."
Learn more about statins from the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
SOURCES: Antonio M. Gotto, Jr., M.D., dean, Weill Cornell Medical College, New York City; Jacob W. Deckers, M.D., department of cardiology, Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam, Netherland
All rights reserved