The risks surrounding the use of cholesterol-control drug statins have been exaggerated and users should be aware of the "devastating" consequences for those that have stopped using them, a study has found.
A major review of the use, safety and efficacy of statins, which are used to reduce "bad" cholesterol and anyone at risk of developing cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and strokes, found that the absolute benefits of statin therapy outweighed the risks of any adverse side effects of the drugs.
"Statin therapy has been shown to reduce vascular disease risk during each year it continues to be taken, so larger absolute benefits would accrue with more prolonged therapy, and these benefits persist long term," the review, authored by Professor Rory Collins from the University of Oxford's Nuffield Department of Population Health, said.
"The only serious adverse events that have been shown to be caused by long-term statin therapy—ie, adverse effects of the statin—are myopathy (defined as muscle pain or weakness combined with large increases in blood concentrations of creatine kinase), new-onset diabetes mellitus, and, probably, hemorrhagic stroke," the study noted, adding that the number of people potentially affected by adverse side effects was small.
"Statin therapy may cause symptomatic adverse events (that is, muscle pain or weakness) in up to about 50–100 patients (ie, 0•5–1•0 percent absolute harm) per 10 000 treated for five years."
The medical review, published in The Lancet medical journal on Thursday, stated that other scientific studies into statins had overlooked their positive effects: "Claims that statins commonly cause adverse effects reflect a failure to recognize the limitations of other sources of evidence about the effects of treatment."