Most Statin Users Won't Have Major Side Effects
However, large review found 9 percent higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes
By Serena Gordon
TUESDAY, July 9 (HealthDay News) -- Statins -- the widely used cholesterol-lowering drugs -- have few serious side effects, although they do slightly raise the risk of type 2 diabetes, according to a large new evidence review.
In the analysis of 135 previous studies, which included nearly 250,000 people combined, researchers found that the drugs simvastatin (Zocor) and pravastatin (Pravachol) had the fewest side effects in this class of medications. They also found that lower doses produced fewer side effects in general.
"As with any drugs, statins have both benefits and harms," said study lead author Huseyin Naci, a doctoral candidate at the London School of Economics and Political Science.
"We show that harmful side effects of statins are not common, and they are greatly outweighed by their benefits," said Naci, also a research fellow in the department of population medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston.
Results of the study, which received no drug company funding, were released online July 9 in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.
Statins are medications used to lower the amount of LDL cholesterol or "bad" cholesterol -- in your blood. LDL levels can be lowered through dietary changes and exercise, but many people find it difficult to maintain these lifestyle changes.
Moreover, statins may be useful for stabilizing plaque in the blood vessels (plaque can break off and cause a heart attack or a stroke) and reducing inflammation, according to Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, a preventive cardiologist and director of Women and Heart Health at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. She was not involved with the new study.
In the analysis, the researchers reviewed data from randomized clinical trials, some of which compared statins to each other, while some compared statins to an inactive placebo pill. The average follow-up time for the studies included in the analysis was 1.3 years.
The review included data from the seven statins currently on the market. Atorvastatin (Lipitor), simvastatin and pravastatin were the most commonly used statins among participants.
Simvastatin and pravastatin had the best safety profile, according to this review.