Scientists say this drug could help a wide range of people avoid amputations and even death.
Though they have been the source of much controversy from scientists weighing the relative risks and benefits, statins remain a mainstay in the pharmaceutical world. Primarily used to treat cholesterol, the drugs have a list of side effects that have caused concern in a number of researchers.
But according to U.S. News and World Report, a recent study suggests that taking the drugs could help eliminate the need for amputation and the possibility of death in people with narrow leg arteries, a condition known as peripheral artery disease, or PAD.
According to the study’s author, Dr. Shipra Arya from the division of vascular surgery at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, “PAD a narrowing of the peripheral arteries to the legs, stomach, arms and head, is the next cardiovascular epidemic.”
Dr. Arya and her research team examined health information collected from over 200,000 veterans suffering from peripheral artery disease. Scientists singled out the patients who had begun taking statins near the time when they were diagnosed with PAD, and recorded the dosage of the drugs each veteran was taking.
During the study’s follow-up period, which checked in with patients an average of 5.2 years after it began, researchers divided the veterans into three groups. One group represented vets who were taking high statin doses, one group had veterans who took medium to low doses, of the drug, and the last group had vets that didn’t take any statins.
Scientists found that vets taking statins while suffering from PAD had a 33 percent lower risk of having a limb amputated, and a 29 percent lower chance of death than those who didn’t take these drugs. Patients taking a moderate to low dose were 22 percent less likely than the control group to experience amputation or death.
“Patients who have been diagnosed with PAD should be considered for placement on high-dose statins upon diagnosis is they can tolerate it, along with other medical management, including smoking cessation, anti-platelet therapy and a walking program,” said Arya.
A press release from the American Heart Association describing the details of the study can be found here.