Objective: To examine whether statins can reduce the risk of atrial fibrillation.
Design: Meta-analysis of published and unpublished results from larger scale statin trials, with comparison of the findings against the published results from smaller scale or shorter duration studies.
Data sources: Medline, Embase, and Cochrane’s CENTRAL up to October 2010. Unpublished data from longer term trials were obtained through contact with investigators.
Study selection: Randomised controlled trials comparing statin with no statin or comparing high dose versus standard dose statin; all longer term trials had at least 100 participants and at least six months’ follow-up.
Results: In published data from 13 short term trials (4414 randomised patients, 659 events), statin treatment seemed to reduce the odds of an episode of atrial fibrillation by 39% (odds ratio 0.61, 95% confidence interval 0.51 to 0.74; P<0.001), but there was significant heterogeneity (P<0.001) between the trials. In contrast, among 22 longer term and mostly larger trials of statin versus control (105 791 randomised patients, 2535 events), statin treatment was not associated with a significant reduction in atrial fibrillation (0.95, 0.88 to 1.03; P=0.24) (P<0.001 for test of difference between the two sets of trials). Seven longer term trials of more intensive versus standard statin regimens (28 964 randomised patients and 1419 events) also showed no evidence of a reduction in the risk of atrial fibrillation (1.00, 0.90 to 1.12; P=0.99).
Conclusions: The suggested beneficial effect of statins on atrial fibrillation from published shorter term studies is not supported by a comprehensive review of published and unpublished evidence from larger scale trials.