Drug Safety

, Volume 29, Issue 5, pp 421–448

Overcoming ‘Ageism’ Bias in the Treatment of Hypercholesterolaemia

A Review of Safety Issues with Statins in the Elderly
Review Article

DOI: 10.2165/00002018-200629050-00005

Cite this article as:
Jacobson, T.A. Drug-Safety (2006) 29: 421. doi:10.2165/00002018-200629050-00005


Atherosclerosis is a progressive, lifelong condition that is the leading cause of death among middle-aged and elderly individuals aged ≥65 years. Up to 80% of elderly patients are found to have evidence of obstructive coronary heart disease at autopsy. Demographic trends, including the advancing median age and life expectancy of Western societies, suggest that a large share of the burden of atherosclerotic plaque is likely to be borne by elderly individuals. These trends are in part due to increases in a number of chronic diseases associated with adverse cardiovascular outcomes, including metabolic syndrome, diabetes mellitus and chronic kidney disease. Because the elderly have a higher attributable risk of coronary heart disease as a result of hypercholesterolaemia, more coronary deaths and overall events can be prevented via treatment in this age group compared with younger persons with hypercholesterolaemia. The efficacy, safety and tolerability of HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors (statins) have been confirmed in randomised, controlled, multicentre trials involving large numbers of patients aged ≥65 years. Although muscle symptoms such as myalgia are relatively common adverse events, more severe signs of myolysis such as myopathy and rhabdomyolysis are rare, but their risk is elevated by conditions (e.g. concomitant medications) that increase the systemic exposure of these agents. Statins differ in their susceptibility to increases in systemic exposure, but most statins have been demonstrated to be well tolerated and safe when administered to elderly patients. These favourable clinical findings should help clinicians counter highly prevalent ‘ageism’ bias in statin prescribing, whereby elderly patients, particularly those at highest cardiovascular risk, are often denied the benefits of statins without any meaningful foundation.

Copyright information

© Adis Data Information BV 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Office of Health Promotion and Disease PreventionEmory University School of MedicineAtlantaUSA

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