Benefits of statins underestimated
Statins are underestimated as a means of preventing strokes and heart attacks, a new review claims.
The cheap daily pills currently curb around 80,000 of the health issues in the U.K. on an annual basis, but Oxford University insists tens of thousands more could benefit if more patients were convinced to take them.
Researchers examined over 300 trials carried out since 1990, involving over 240,000 patients, making it the biggest and most comprehensive to date looking into the pros and cons of statins.
Experts predicted that for every 10,000 patients prescribed statins for at least five years, 1,500 heart attacks and strokes would stop every year. More importantly, just 215 patients would possibly suffer side effects, including; five with muscle pain, 10 with rare strokes, 100 with diabetes and the rest with milder symptoms.
Statins come in at just 6p a day and are known to reduce cholesterol levels in the blood, thus reducing the chances of strokes and heart attacks.
“Our review shows that the numbers of people who avoid heart attacks and strokes by taking statin therapy are very much larger than the numbers who have side-effects with it,” Professor Sir Rory Collins, head of Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Population Health, said.
“We’ve had an underestimation of the benefits, and a massive overestimation of the harms.”
Professor Liam Smeeth, of London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, was also involved in the study and agreed with Collins’ conclusions, pointing out that statins are effective and safe.
However, Collins points out that these side effects could put people off taking them, despite their advantages.
“Consequently, there is a serious cost to public health from making misleading claims about high side effect rates,” he said.
The study is published in Lancet.