Purpose of review: Randomized trials have shown that statins may reduce the risk of primary stroke. There is no evidence however that statins can reduce recurrent stroke incidence.
Recent findings: In the SPARCL trial, patients with a recent stroke or transient ischemic attack randomized to atorvastatin 80 mg/day had a significant 16% relative risk reduction of stroke, and a 35% reduction in major coronary events compared with placebo. This was obtained despite 25% of the placebo arm patients receiving a commercially-available statin outside of the trial. Post-hoc analysis used blinded LDL-cholesterol measurements as a marker of adherence to lipid-lowering therapy. Compared with the group with no change or an increase in LDL-cholesterol (the group adherent to placebo or not taking a statin), the group with over 50% reduction in LDL-cholesterol had a significant 31% reduction in stroke. The next step is to define whether achieving LDL-cholesterol below 70 mg/dl is better than a standard dose of statin (LDL around 100-110 mg/dl) in the secondary prevention of stroke.
Summary: Statins are effective in reducing both first-ever and recurrent stroke, and this effect seems driven by the extent of LDL-cholesterol lowering.