Statins unlikely to prevent blood clots

19 September 2012

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New research shows that cholesterol lowering drugs known as ‘statins’ may not be able to prevent blood clots, as was previously thought.

According to research led by Kazem Rahimi from the George Centre for Healthcare Innovation at the Oxford Martin School, taking statins has been shown to have a negligible effect, if any, on the prevention of venous thrombo-embolism in adults.

The results of the study have been published in PLOS Medicine.

In 2009, an additional analysis of data from a randomized controlled trial, called the JUPITER trial, reported that the statin ‘rosuvastatin’ halved the risk of venous thromboembolic events among apparently healthy adults. However, this finding was based on a small number of patients suffering from blood clots.

To gather more evidence about the possible benefits of statins, a group of international researchers led by Kazem Rahimi, combined the results (performed a meta-analysis) of 29 suitable published and unpublished randomised controlled trials of the effects of statins, involving over 100 000 participants and more than 1000 events.

In the combined analysis, the authors found that venous thrombosis occurred in 0.9% of people taking statins compared to 1% of people not taking statins, which suggests that statins have a very small, if any, effect.

These results did not change when the authors excluded the findings of the JUPITER trial. The authors also found that there was no effect at all in people taking high doses and low doses of statins.

The authors conclude: "This study provides a more detailed assessment of the potential effects of statins (or higher dose statins) on venous thromboembolic events than has previously been possible. We were unable to confirm the large proportional reduction in risk suggested by some previous studies. However, a more modest but perhaps clinically worthwhile reduction in venous thromboembolic events in some or all types of patient cannot be ruled out."

Read the academic paper Effect of Statins on Venous Thromboembolic Events

More about the George Centre for Healthcare Innovation at the Oxford Martin School