Statin treatment in women without cardiovascular disease is controversial. Research has found that for women with elevated LDL levels as their only cardiovascular risk factor, the benefit of lowering LDL cholesterol with a statin drug might not outweigh the risks.
According to an article in Circulation “Statins for the primary prevention of cardiovascular events in women with elevated high-sensitivity C-reactive protein or dyslipidemia” (March 2010) many women take statins and suffer side effects similar to those experienced by men. Statin side effects range from mild to severe and include liver damage, myopathy, and behavioral and cognitive problems.
Revised Treatment Guidelines Push for Increasing Statin Use
Treatment guidelines issued in 2014 in the New England Journal of Medicine suggest that up to 13 million more adults should be taking statins. The revised guidelines changed the focus from specific cholesterol levels to a wider assessment of heart attack and stroke risk.
Opponents Claim Too Many Women Prescribed Statins
Not everyone agrees with these new treatment guidelines, as reported in the New York Times, also in 2014: “Among men 60 to 75, the percentage would jump to 87 percent from 30 percent; among older women, it would increase to 54 percent from 21 percent.” In that New York Times article, the chief of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic said the report confirmed his concerns that the new guidelines “don’t target the right patients for treatment.” He faulted the study for not taking into account the family history of cardiovascular disease: “Should so many women be taking statins? Far too many healthy women are taking statins, they say, though some research indicates the drugs will do them little good and may be more likely to cause serious side effects in women.”
Women Found to Suffer More Side Effects from Statins Than Men
These studies highlight the fact that fewer women take statins than men, and that women suffer more side effects from statins than men. Although women represent about half the population, they are enormously under-represented in clinical trials of statins. It follows that the evidence on the benefits and risks for women is scarce. In one of the studies American Journal of Cardiology “Justification for the Use of Statins in Prevention: an Intervention Trial Evaluating Rosuvastatin (JUPITER)” (Jan 2006), there was no significant reduction in heart attacks, strokes and deaths among the women while the male participants on statins had fewer heart attacks and strokes.
Weigh the Risks and Benefits with Genetic Testing
Some side effects of statins and other drugs may be reduced by either altering the dose or by changing the particular statin prescribed. Side effects in general may be reduced by taking into account the variation in your drug metabolism genes. The study of variation in the drug metabolism genes defines the field of Pharmacogenetics. This advanced genomics field emerged after the human genome was sequenced and has become an important field of its own.
Rxight® Pharmacogenetic Testing for Statin Side Effects
Pharmacogenetics research showed there is variation in the genes that are responsible for processing drugs. That means that if a particular gene has variations it may result in a gene product (protein or enzyme) that is non-functional or has reduced function. This altered function, which can sometimes mean an inability to process a medication or a reduced ability to process a medication, may result in adverse side effects. Side effects may be lessened by avoiding those drugs that you don’t have the ability to process normally.
Once you and your physSician have these results you can use them for your lifetime. The results allow your physician to interpret your ability to metabolize over 200 drugs on the market. Your physician will then have at hand the predictive ability to prescribe drugs that are safer for you and to possibly avoid side effects with any new medication. With the Rxight® pharmacogenetic test from MD Labs you can bring precision medicine home to your personalized medical care.