Kevin S. Attenhofer, MD
Statins are some of the most commonly prescribed drugs in the fields of cardio- and cerebrovascular disease. In the last two decades, randomized controlled trials have shown that statin therapy reduces the risk of major vascular events in high-risk populations. Definitions of these populations have changed over the years, but currently the AHA/ASA stroke guidelines recommend statins in all patients for secondary stroke prevention.
Despite the ubiquitous usage of statins, it has been noted that some data (from the Heart Protection Study (HPS) and the Stroke Prevention with Aggressive Reductions of Cholesterol Levels (SPARCL)) suggests that the benefits of high-dose atorvastatin treatment was partially offset by an increase in hemorrhagic stroke. The association of statins and intracerebral hemorrhage (ICH) has remained controversial ever since. Subsequent meta-analyses and case control studies — some of which included data from SPARCL — found no associated increase in the risk of ICH in patients on statin therapy.