Behind the Headlines: Can statins prevent blood clots?

Statin therapy could reduce the risk of fatal venous blood clots, according to media reports. By Laura James.

US researchers found that when apparently healthy men and women were given a dose of rosuvastatin daily, they were significantly less likely to suffer from venous thromboembolism (VTE).

They believe this could offer hope for a preventative therapy for VTE, with acceptable costs and side-effects.

Prolonged immobility can increase clot risk

What is the research?
As part of the JUPITER trial, Dr Paul Ridker and the team of researchers from Harvard Medical School randomly assigned 17,802 healthy men and women to receive rosuvastatin 20mg a day or a placebo.

Over the next 1.9 years symptomatic VTE occurred in 60 participants in the placebo group, but only 34 in the rosuvastatin group.

This is equivalent to an event rate of 0.18 per 100 person-years in the rosuvastatin group and 0.32 event in the placebo group. It represents a 43 per cent reduction in relative risk of VTE.

Rates of pulmonary embolism were also lower in the rosuvastatin group than the placebo group.

What do the researchers say?
Writing in the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr Ridker and his colleagues said: 'Treatment with 20mg of rosuvastatin daily was associated with a significant reduction in the occurrence of venous thromboembolism.'

They added: 'Consistent effects were seen across subgroups, with a notable benefit observed in the high-risk subgroups of older participants and those with elevated waist circumference.'

The apparent benefit was similar whether venous thromboembolism was provoked or unprovoked, the researchers said.

In addition, the observed treatment effect was similar to, and independent of, the previously observed effect for arterial events.

The researchers added: 'Data from an observational study suggest that there may be a greater benefit with higher doses, but the evidence is limited by confounding (factors) and by the small size of the study.'

What do other experts say?
Professor Peter Weissberg, medical director at the British Heart Foundation, pointed out that VTE can lead to potentially fatal pulmonary embolus, particularly in patients with cancer or following prolonged immobility.

'This is the first study to show that statins, which protect against heart attacks, appear also to protect against blood clots in the veins of the leg and lungs,' he said.

'Further clinical trials are now needed to investigate if patients at high risk of a DVT are protected by statins. If they are, the findings could lead to such patients being prescribed statins to protect them in the future.'

Informing Patients

  • A study has shown statin therapy could help prevent venous blood clots.
  • Such preventive use of a statin could be especially beneficial for the elderly and overweight.
  • Further research needs to be carried out before the drug is used as a prophylactic.

GPletters@haymarket.com

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