The Safety and Tolerability of Statin Therapy in Primary Prevention in Older Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis



The use of statins in the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease (CVD) is increasing in older adults. Nonetheless, good clinical evidence for the safety and tolerability of statins in this population is limited.


We aimed to evaluate the safety and tolerability of statins in older adults without overt CVD, focusing on statin-related muscle symptoms.


Double-blinded randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of statins published before January 2012 were identified from a Cochrane review updated to 2012. Trials published between January 2012 and July 2018 were identified through the CENTRAL, MEDLINE and EMBASE databases. Eligible trials were limited to those including individuals aged ≥ 65 years without overt CVD, who were followed for at least 1 year. Trials had to have reported at least one of the outcomes of interest. Pooled relative risk (RR) estimates and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated using random-effects models.


We identified 11 trials, including 18,192 participants (mean age 73.7 years; 43% females). Compared with placebo, statins neither increased the risks of muscle-related symptoms (RR 1.01; 95% CI 0.90–1.12), total adverse events (AEs) and serious AEs nor led to more total permanent treatment discontinuations and discontinuations due to AEs or specifically due to muscle-related symptoms. No evidence of heterogeneity was observed in any of these outcomes.


This meta-analysis of RCTs found no excess incidence of muscle-related symptoms, total AEs, serious AEs and treatment discontinuations attributable to statin treatment compared with placebo among older adults without CVD.

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The authors thank Dr. Frank Brouwers for providing unpublished individual patient data from PREVEND IT, AstraZeneca for providing the data from the METEOR trial and Pfizer for providing the data from the BONE and ASPEN trials.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Zhen Zhou.

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No sources of funding were used to conduct this study or prepare this manuscript.

Conflict of interest

MN has participated on an advisory board for Amgen, who make a lipid-lowering agent. ZZ, LA, AC and MB have no conflicts of interest that are directly relevant to the content of this article.

Ethical approval

Not applicable for this meta-analysis.

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Zhou, Z., Albarqouni, L., Curtis, A.J. et al. The Safety and Tolerability of Statin Therapy in Primary Prevention in Older Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Drugs Aging 37, 175–185 (2020).

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