Statins aren’t particularly effective at reducing the risk of dying from heart disease, a study claims.
Scientists analyzed 35 studies on the effects of drugs that lower ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol, and found that the pills don’t have a consistent benefit.
The study, published in the British Medical Journal, found that three-quarters of all studies reported no reduction in mortality in those taking the drugs.
And half of all studies suggested that cholesterol-lowering pills could not prevent heart attacks or strokes.
The research goes against decades of medical advice. Authors claimed that doctors have overlooked evidence suggesting that statins, which are routinely prescribed to people at risk of heart disease, are not effective.
Scientists analyzed 35 previous studies on the effects of drugs that lower ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol, and found that the pills do not have a consistent benefit
Lead author Dr. Robert DuBroff, of the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, said it “seems intuitive and logical” to target LDL cholesterol because it is considered essential for the development of cardiovascular disease.
But they added, “Given that dozens of studies on LDL cholesterol lowering have not shown a consistent benefit, we have to question the validity of this theory.”
About 8 million people in the UK and 35 million in the US take statins. They are thought to prevent heart attacks and strokes by lowering blood LDL cholesterol levels.
Statins are routinely prescribed to people thought to be at risk for heart disease, including those with diabetes, high blood pressure, and those over 75.
WHY ARE STATINS CONTROVERSIAL?
Up to six million adults in the UK are currently taking statins to lower their cholesterol levels and thereby reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
But many doctors and patients are concerned about their long-term damage and have been linked to diabetes, muscle pain and memory loss.
Scores are uncomfortable with what they describe as the “overmedicalization” of middle age, with statins being distributed “just in case” patients have heart problems later in life.
Supporters, on the other hand, including the health watchdog Nice, say the pills should be prescribed more widely to avoid thousands of premature deaths.
They have been proven to help people who have had heart problems in the past.
But experts say the thresholds are too high, meaning the benefits outweigh the side effects for many people.
Commonly reported side effects are headache, muscle pain and nausea, and statins may also increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, hepatitis, pancreatitis and vision problems or memory loss.
However, in the new study, scientists claim that a widespread prescription of statins isn’t particularly effective at reducing death.
In any case, they claim, the focus on cholesterol levels cannot identify many of those at high risk for heart disease, while those at low risk are not treated.
The researchers systematically reviewed all published clinical studies comparing treatment with one of three types of cholesterol-lowering drugs: statins, ezetimibe, and PCSK9.
Their analysis found that more than three-quarters of all studies reported no positive effect on mortality risk and almost half had no positive effect on risk of future cardiovascular disease.
The researchers claimed that doctors have overlooked evidence suggesting that statins are not effective.
Dr. DuBroff said, “In most fields of science, the existence of contradictory evidence usually leads to a paradigm shift or modification of the theory in question, but in this case the contradictory evidence is largely ignored simply because it does not fit the prevailing paradigm.”
However, the findings were criticized by several other experts who emphasized that there is a lot of evidence showing the health benefits of lowering cholesterol.
Cardiologist Professor Robert Storey, of the University of Sheffield, said, “There is a tremendous amount of evidence showing that LDL, or” bad “cholesterol, is largely responsible for building fat in the blood vessels that line the heart, brain and other parts. from the body.
“People who have developed blood flow to these blood vessels) benefit greatly from treatment to lower cholesterol, such as statins, and this has helped reduce the risk for patients who have had the most common types of heart attack and stroke.
Where the evidence becomes less clear is the use of a cholesterol-lowering treatment in people who have no evidence of blood vessel deformation.
This is because people who do not have continuous friction of the blood vessels will not benefit meaningfully in recent years from cholesterol treatments required to do a clinical trial, although this does not mean that they will not benefit from a longer period if they are at a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. ‘
Alun Hughes, professor of cardiovascular physiology and pharmacology at UCL, said the authors had conducted a “flawed analysis of published data.”
He added, “Contrary to the authors’ conclusion, I think there is compelling evidence that statins reduce overall mortality and cardiovascular events.”
Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, medical director of the British Heart Foundation, defended the use of statins yesterday.
He said, “There is no doubt that statins save lives. As one of the most commonly prescribed drugs in the UK, they have been subject to a tremendous amount of in-depth scientific research, which has shown time and time again as a safe and effective way to prevent fatal heart attacks and strokes.
Inadequate analysis of this massive evidence leads to unnecessary concern and confusion in patients, which could ultimately cost lives.
If you have been prescribed statins, continue to use them regularly as directed. If you are concerned, discuss your medication with your doctor. ‘