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Monday 24th October 2016

Prevention 'no benefit' to elderly

10th August 2007

Doctors have said that use of drugs as disease prevention in the elderly may not "prolong or improve life".


The doctors' views were published in the British Medical Journal. They said statins, drugs which are given to help patients with heart disease, could lead to an elderly person's cause of death being dementia or cancer instead.

The government has a target to reduce the rates of heart disease by 40% by 2010. About 40m statins are prescribed by doctors in the UK every year. GPs are given financial rewards for the prescription of statins to high-risk patients.

London GP Dr Iona Heath said it was a cause for concern that there was no "upper age limit" given to a doctor weighing up the risk of a patient's danger of heart disease.

A study of statins in subjects aged 70-82 years olds showed that mortality rates from heart disease decreased in those patients treated with pravastatin. However, this did not have an effect on overall death rates because of an increase in cancer rates.

Dr Heath said people had "to die of something" and previous research showed people were more worried about a painful death from cancer than heart disease. Dr Heath opined that money spent on statins should be used for cataract surgery and dementia care.

Professor Peter Weissberg, medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said the BHF thought more research should be carried out into preventative treatments. He argued that the use of statins had a beneficial effect for elderly people.

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