Risks of statins exaggerated, says new review
Clinical Trial Service Unit at the University of Oxford looked at 10,000 patients taking an average of 40mg of statins a day, over a five-year period.
Where possible they examined the evidence of any possible effects the medication was having on the patients.
It found that the benefits of taking the drug, that reduces cholesterol, were massively underestimated and the harms were exaggerated.
Published in the Lancet the report has been widely praised by major health organisations, including the British Heart Foundation.
The review said that in randomized controlled trials neither doctors or patients knew who was on the dummy drug and effects of the average does were low.
Prof Collins, who led the review, said: "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.
"In addition, whereas most of the side effects can be reversed with no residual effects by stopping the statin, the effects of a heart attack or stroke not being prevented are irreversible and can be devastating.
The review suggested that 1,000 heart attacks, strokes and coronary artery bypasses in those already suffered from vascular disease.
In addition, it said that another 500 people could avoid any of these “major cardiovascular events” when they were at risk due to their age, or another illness such as diabetes.
Dr Maureen Baker, who chairs the Royal College of GPs, said: "We hope this research reassures patients that in the majority of cases statins are safe and effective drugs - but in most cases where adverse side effects are seen, these are reversible by stopping taking statins."
However, there are critics of the report, who have said the review cannot be taken as the final word on statins.
Fiona Godlee, editor of the British Medical Journal, said: "This still does not address the calls for a thorough, independent review of the evidence of statins.
"This is especially important in view of the guidance which recommends that large numbers of healthy people should take a tablet every day."
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