Atlanta—Statins lower the risk of amputation and early death in peripheral artery disease (PAD) patients who take the cholesterol-lowering drugs, according to a new study.

The research, presented recently at the American Heart Association 2016 Scientific Sessions on Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology/Peripheral Vascular Disease (ATVB-PVD) in Nashville, reports that the higher the dose of statins, the lower the risks.

“PAD, a narrowing of the peripheral arteries to the legs, stomach, arms and head, is the next cardiovascular epidemic. It is poorly recognized and not adequately treated compared to heart disease—and research is lacking on the optimal use of statins for PAD patients,” explained lead author Shipra Arya, MD, SM, an assistant professor at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia.

For the study, researchers reviewed health information and health status from the Veterans Affairs' database for more than 208,000 veterans with PAD. During an average of slightly more than 5 years of follow up, researchers identified those on statin medications and the dosage they used near the time of PAD diagnosis and followed the veterans to assess their risk of amputation or death.

Participants were classified into three groups—those taking high doses of statins, low-to-moderate statin doses, and no statins.

Results indicate a 33% lower risk of amputation and 29% lower risk of death among PAD patients taking high doses of statins, compared to those taking no statins.

At the same time, a 22% lower risk of amputation and death was identified among PAD patients taking low-to-moderate doses of statins, compared to PAD patients taking no statins.

“Ours is one of the largest population-based studies on PAD and suggests patients who have been diagnosed with PAD should be considered for placement on high dose statins upon diagnosis if they can tolerate it, along with other medical management, including smoking cessation, antiplatelet therapy and a walking program,” said Arya, who is also a staff physician at Atlanta VA Medical Center, in an American Heart Association press release.

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