The benefits of taking statins for healthy adults outweigh the risks, according to a new review.
Statins lower cholesterol in the blood and are one of the most commonly prescribed drugs in the UK, with around eight million adults taking them to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Researchers, led by academics from the University of Oxford, examined the risk/benefit ratio among groups who were taking the drug preventatively.
They found the risk of adverse events linked to statins was “low” and did not outweigh their efficacy in preventing cardiovascular disease.
In a new study, published in The BMJ, the authors wrote that this suggests the “benefit-to-harm balance of statins is generally favourable”.
Researchers examined data from 62 clinical trials with more than 120,000 participants.
Data from the trials indicated a small increased risk of self-reported muscle symptoms but were not associated with clinically confirmed muscle disorders.
Statins were associated with liver dysfunction, renal insufficiency, and eye conditions, but were not associated with diabetes.
But the papers states that the absolute increases in the risks for adverse events were “small”.
The authors concluded that the risks “did not outweigh the reduction in the risk of major cardiovascular events” – such as heart attacks and strokes.
Earlier this year, a separate study concluded that statins do not cause muscle pain or stiffness any more than a placebo.
Many people have been put off taking the cholesterol-busting drugs because of the potential side effects.
But the study found that the drugs are no more likely than a placebo to cause muscle problems.
The study, called an “n-of-1” trial, saw participants given both the placebo – or a “fake” drug with no active medical substance – and atorvastatin at different periods over the course of a year.
But they did not know which drugs they were taking.
Overall, the researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) found no difference in muscle symptom scores between the statin and placebo periods.
Most people completing the trial intended to restart treatment with statins, the authors noted.