Benefits of cholesterol-lowering medication questioned

Posted Jan 19, 2011 by Kev Hedges
People who have no heart problems should reconsider before taking cholesterol-lowering statins, says a British medical research study.
Spacefill model of the Cholesterol molecule
Spacefill model of the Cholesterol molecule
In Britain, one in three people over 40 take statins to lower cholesterol levels. High cholesterol can increase the risk of stroke or heart attacks in later life. In the UK, statins are available over the counter, where in the US a prescription is required.
Medical literature on the subject was reviewed at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. They found many of the reports on statins were flawed, as reported in Reuters Health. A review published in the Cochrane Collaboration, an organization that evaluates medical research, determined that caution should be taken in prescribing statins for primary prevention among those at low cardiovascular risk.
A group headed by Dr. Shah Ebrahim claims the reports, all but one of which were funded by drug companies, inflated the apparent benefits of treatment. He said: "Any appraisal we can make of adverse events is biased by failure to report these events. We believe that trial funders, investigators and journal editors have failed to provide adequate information to doctors and their patients to assess the benefits and harms of statins in primary prevention."
One manufacturer of statins, Pfizer, says it was still reviewing the new report. Its spokesman Mackay Jimeson says, "managing cardiovascular disease risk factors is complicated, and prescribing decisions should be based on a physician's full assessment of each patient's individual risk factors and needs."
The British Heart Foundation said, in BBC Health, the benefits of prescribing statins for people at low-risk of heart disease was unclear.
However the report concluded that statins reduced death rates. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence are recommending taking statins if you have a greater than 20 per cent chance of developing cardiovascular disease within ten years.
Previous studies have favoured statins as good for those at low risk of cardiovascular problems, some side-effects are known to include severe irritability and memory loss, and muscle weakness, as reported in Mail Online.