Benefits of cholesterol-lowering statin drugs greatly outweigh risk of muscle symptoms

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Statin therapy is effective for the prevention of heart disease and strokes, the world’s largest killer, and is widely prescribed.

However, there have been concerns that statins may cause muscle pain or weakness, leading some patients to stop taking their treatment.

In a study from the University of Oxford, scientists found that the known benefits of statin therapy in preventing cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks and strokes, outweigh the slightly increased risk of muscle symptoms.

For most people taking a statin, any muscle-related symptoms they experience are not likely to be caused by the drug.

The known protective effects of statins against cardiovascular disease greatly exceed the slightly increased risk of muscle symptoms.

For example, for every 1,000 people taking a moderate-intensity statin, the treatment would cause 11 generally mild episodes of muscle pain or weakness in the first year with no significant excess in subsequent years.

Over a five-year period, statins typically prevent 50 major vascular events in those with pre-existing vascular disease, and 25 major vascular events in those with no pre-existing vascular disease, with longer treatment yielding larger benefits.

The team says their study was conducted to resolve uncertainties around the possible effects of statins on muscle symptoms.

The researchers compiled data from 23 trials from the Cholesterol Treatment Trialists’ (CTT) Collaboration, with information on nearly 155,000 patients.

They say muscle symptoms such as pain or weakness were experienced by similar numbers of people in the statin and placebo groups.

Statins were not the cause of muscle pain in more than 93% of patients who reported symptoms. Statin therapy marginally increased the frequency, but not the severity, of muscle-related symptoms.

The small excess risk of muscle symptoms occurred principally during the first year after commencing therapy.

The results should help doctors and patients to make informed decisions about whether to start or remain on statin therapy.

Information provided to doctors and patients should be reviewed in light of our findings, including drug labeling and guidelines.

If you care about heart attacks, please read studies that drinking up to three cups of coffee a day may protect your heart, and common heart attack treatment has damaging effects.

If you care about stroke, please read studies that diets high in flavonoids could help reduce stroke risk, and MIND diet could slow down cognitive decline after stroke.

The study was conducted by Professor Colin Baigent et al and presented at ESC Congress 2022.

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