Statins cause few side effects, according to the largest review of the cholesterol-lowering drugs to date.
UK researchers reviewed data from 135 trials, including almost 250,000 patients, to evaluate the safety of the seven statins on the market.
They concluded adverse side effects associated with statins were “not common” and they were not linked to increased cancer risk. Simvastatin and pravastatin were the safest in the class, particularly when patients were prescribed low-to-moderate doses.
While there was a small, 9%, rise in diabetes risk among statin users, this was outweighed by the benefits to heart patients, the authors said. Statins were also associated with a typically reversible increase in liver enzymes.
The meta-analysis was published online by the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes. It was carried out by the London School of Economics, Bristol University and the Erasmus Medical Center in Holland.
“Although the benefits of statins clearly outweigh risks at the population level, individualising such benefits and risks is more difficult,” the authors said. “This brings into sharp focus the importance of correctly identifying the set of individuals who stands to benefit from statin therapy.”
They added: “Caution is warranted before prescribing statins to individuals at low risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Statins are only modestly effective in reducing mortality and morbidity in individuals with low risk of developing cardiovascular disease.”
Maureen Talbot, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: “It’s reassuring that a review of the evidence confirms that statins – a driving force behind the UK’s declining heart attack rates – are safe.”
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