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Statin side-effects reduced

Thursday March 13th, 2014

Statins, the widely used cholesterol-lowering drugs, may have just one side-effect, researchers say today.

Patients have reported a range of problems linked to taking the drugs - but, according to the new study, few of these stand up to scrutiny.

Researcher Dr Judith Finegold, from the National Heart and Lung Institute in London, undertook her analysis without backing from commercial or public sources in an attempt to get an impartial assessment of the side-effects linked to statins.

She studied some 29 randomised controlled trials of the drugs involving more than 80,000 patients.

Her conclusion was that patients tended to report the same side-effects whether they were taking statins or fake drugs - placebos.

The only difference was an increase by half a percentage point in rates of diabetes among those prescribed statin as a preventative measure - meaning that in total 3% of those taking the drugs developed the disease.

This was balanced by a similar reduction in death rates, according to Dr Finegold.

She reported her findings in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

The research showed a decreased rate of "side-effects" among those given statins to control existing heart disease - just 9.9% of patients reported problems compared with 11.2% of those on placebo treatments.

Dr Finegold said: "We clearly found that many patients in these trials - whose patients are usually well motivated volunteers who didn't know if they were getting a real or placebo tablet - that many did report side effects while taking placebo.

"In the general population, where patients are being prescribed a statin for an asymptomatic condition, why would it be surprising that even higher rates of side effects are reported?"

Dr Finegold said she did not believe the findings should affect the rate of prescription of statins.

She said: "We believe that patients should be empowered to make their own decisions, but we must first make sure they have top quality unbiased information.

"That is why we call on drug regulators to highlight in the long lists of side effects those few whose rate is incrementally greater than that experienced with a dummy tablet."

Finegold JA et al. What proportion of symptomatic side effects in patients taking statins are genuinely caused by the drug? Systematic review of randomized placebo-controlled trials to aid individual patient choice. Eur J Prevent Cardiol 13 March 2014; doi: 10.1177/2047487314525531

Tags: Diabetes | Heart Health | Pharmaceuticals | UK News

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