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Statins May Raise Health Risks for Seniors

Filed October 23rd, 2013 Laurie

Statin drugs are increasingly being prescribed for the elderly to treat high cholesterol, but many health experts believe that the drugs might be unnecessary for patients who have no evidence of heart disease.

The American Medical Directors Association (AMDA), a professional group representing physicians working in nursing homes, drew up a list of five questionable medical tests and treatments as part of its “Choosing Wisely” campaign, which alerts consumers to inappropriate or overused medical interventions, according to the New York Times’ The New Old Age blog.

“Don’t routinely prescribe lipid-lowering medications in individuals with a limited life expectancy,” the AMDA wrote, referring to people over the age of 70. Dr. Hosam Kamel, an Arkansas geriatrician who is vice chair of AMDA’s clinical practice committee, told The New Old Age that there is little scientific evidence to support the use of statins among 70- and 80-year-olds without pre-existing cardiovascular disease.

In fact, Kamel explained to The New Old Age, there is evidence that statin drugs can cause liver toxicity, muscle aches, and gastrointestinal distress among older patients. Evidence is mounting that the drugs can also impair memory, increase the risk of cancer, and raise the risk of diabetes for this demographic. “Our recommendation is that physicians weigh the potential risks and benefits and not automatically prescribe these medications,” Dr. Kamel said, referring to older patients without heart disease.


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