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Statins "do not help the elderly"

Elderly patients who have cardiovascular disease will not necessarily live longer if they are given statins, it has been claimed.

Experts writing in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) said that their cause of death will most likely be "substituted" for something else, such as cancer.

The use of statins has grown over recent years and it has been claimed that they can save thousands of lives every year.

But researchers from the UK and New Zealand said elderly people can actually be harmed by the drugs, adding the treatments are expensive for the health service.

They noted the government's aim to reduce the number of people dying from the "epidemic" of cardiovascular disease by 40% by 2010.

And they asked: "But what will be the next most common cause of death - the next epidemic?

"Our bodies have a finite functional life and age is a fundamental cause of disease.

"By using preventive treatments to reduce the risk of a particular cause of death in elderly people, are we simply changing the cause of death rather than prolonging life?"

They cited a trial of one statin, pravastatin, on elderly people, which had a clear but small effect on lowering cardiovascular disease death rates.

However, the total number of deaths remained the same, meaning that deaths from illnesses other than cardiovascular disease must have increased.

The authors said: "By providing treatments designed to prevent particular diseases, we may be selecting for another cause of death unknowingly, and certainly without the patient's informed consent.

"This is fundamentally unethical and undermines the principle of respect for autonomy."


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"We would like to know who decides what their natural lenghth is? Each person no matter what age they are is an individual and should not be discriminated against because of their age" - Elizabeth Carr,  Bolton PCT

"Provided the elderly person 'chooses' to take the pills or not, how can it be unethical to continue offering them. If someone reaches the point where they are unable to choose for themselves the dilemma lies with the person responsible for their care. We should advocate the use of a 'Living Will' which would inform the carer of one's views. I have completed one and would hope it will be honoured if ever the time comes that I am unable to make my own decisions" - Joan Gledson, Newcastle

"Yes, I do think prolonging death in elderly people is wrong. My mother is 91 and in poor health with very little quality of life. She just wants to be left in peace, but is told to take her tablets each day so she can sit in her chair for another day. She is housebound, gets help to get up and dressed, the same routine applies when it is time for her to go to bed. I am in my 60s and she is afraid that I will go befor her. With so many people now living longer why prolong what must come?" - Name and address supplied

"The elderly should not be discriminated against. They are entitled to the same care as anyone else. I actually think its unethical not to offer them the same treatment as anyone else. Who decides 'when' the elderly aren't worth treating anymore. I can't beleive as a nurse I'm answering this question" - Name and address supplied