Should Healthy People Take Statins?
FAQ: Preventing First-Time Heart Disease With Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs
What are the risks of statins for healthy people who do not have high LDL cholesterol? continued...
In its mildest form, this appears as myositis, a painful inflammation of the muscles. A muscle enzyme called CPK may build up in the blood. The most serious form of muscle breakdown is rhabdomyolysis, in which muscles all over the body become painful and weak. A flood of muscle proteins collects in the kidneys and can lead to kidney failure and death.
Another troubling problem linked to statin use is an increased risk of diabetes. This risk became apparent in the JUPITER trial, in which more individuals taking Crestor developed diabetes than those taking placebo.
A 2010 analysis of statin clinical trials suggests that increased diabetes risk is linked to all statins, not just Crestor. It appears to occur more often in patients over age 60.
How big is the risk? The study found that if 255 patients take a statin for four years, the drugs will cause one extra case of diabetes. Meanwhile, the drugs would prevent 5.4 heart-related deaths or heart attacks. Overall, the benefit of statins in reducing heart disease risk is nine times greater than the drugs' danger of increasing diabetes risk.
However, this finding suggests that older patients taking statins should have their blood sugar levels checked regularly.