There has been much controversy in the medical world about whether statins can benefit elderly people as well, or if the risk is too high. Patients over the age of 80, especially, have more delicate health conditions and are often already medicated with other necessary treatments. Many experts continue to research the benefits and risks of using statins to treat elderly patients and often the answer depends on the individual, personal tolerance and reaction, and their cholesterol levels.
Fatal Drug Combinations
One major concern for elderly patients taking statins is the possibility of lethally mixing medications. Elderly patients with high cholesterol levels often are battling other existing conditions that require one or more medications. While statins are the preferred drug to treat high cholesterol, combining it with other drugs can make a toxic mixture and nullify its beneficial effects. Particularly for elderly patients on dialysis medications, studies have shown that patients on dialysis are just as likely to suffer a heart attack with statins as without taking statins. Some cases recorded that dialysis patients who were taking statins actually had a higher risk of stroke. Other common medications can increase the chance of liver failure, kidney failure, or sever myopathy. New FDA warnings provide a detailed list of medications which should be avoided or limited while taking statins.
New Warnings from the FDA
Statins remain one of the most popular drugs on the market for reducing cholesterol levels, but the safety of the drug remains under constant supervision. As of 2010, the FDA has updated the level of dosage safety for prescriptions. New warnings tell patients and healthcare providers about known risks of muscle injury and damage from dosages of 80mg or greater. Although there is a risk of muscle injury (myopathy) for all types of statins, the risk is greater at higher dosages. The latest FDA revision highlights the greater possibility of developing muscle damage from high statin dosages. High dosages may also lead to rhabdomyolysis which can permanently damage muscles, cause severe kidney problems including failure, and possibly be fatal. New patients should not be started on doses 80mg or higher, and only patients who have already taken 80mg dosages for more than 12 months should continue. All new labels on statin medications reflect these changes in dosage recommendations, as well as a detailed list of medications to avoid or limit while taking statins.
Should Statin Be Used in Elderly Patients?
This controversial question is thoroughly under investigation in present time, and the answers vary depending on how you look at the studies. What it ultimately comes down to however, is whether the benefits outweigh the risks in each individual. In groups over the age of 80 years old, the side effects and impacts of statins can affect the elderly more seriously than younger groups. Particularly myopathy and muscle injury can seriously impact an already frail and weakened individual. Additionally, elderly patients with other health conditions are more likely to experience dangerous drug combinations than younger patients. However, if an elderly patient is in good general and their remaining life can benefit from the cardiac disease prevention of statins, then they shouldn't be excluded from their treatment. With proper caution and judgement, doctors should still be able to help an elderly patient extend their life with careful applications of statins.