More Docs Wonder If Statins Are Worth the Risks
A Closer Look at Side Effects continued...
"I don't want people to be misinformed about statins," he says.
Earlier this year, Collins called on a major medical journal, the BMJ, to retract two papers that questioned whether the side effects of statins were worth the benefits for patients at low risk of heart disease. After an independent panel reviewed the claims made in both papers, they declined his request, saying the papers should stand.
Experts say another problem is that people may suspect statins when other conditions are really causing their symptoms.
“Aches and pains are common in many people, so it’s difficult to know whether they are coming from the statin or not,” says Alexander Turchin, MD, an endocrinologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
Turchin says one of his patients, who had shoulder pain while taking a statin, later turned out to have cancer, though he admits that’s an extreme example.
In an effort to try to reconcile study evidence with real-world experience, Turchin and his colleagues recently looked at the medical records of more than 100,000 people who were prescribed statins from 2000 to 2008. They found nearly 1 in 6 had side effects while taking the drugs. And nearly two-thirds of those stopped their medication, at least temporarily. The most common side effects noted in the study were muscle and joint pains and spasms. Those were followed by nausea, diarrhea, and constipation.
The study, which was published last year in the Annals of Internal Medicine, also found that more than 90% of people who stopped taking their medications were able to continue on a statin if they tried again, either with a different drug or a lower dose.
But Perry says given the small chance of benefit, it doesn't always make sense for a person who'd had trouble on a statin to try again.
"If they ruin quality of life, it's almost certainly not worth it."