Statins for Prevention

Here’s something to consider if you’re thinking about taking cholesterol-fighting drugs. A study out of London says there is not enough evidence to support the widespread use of these statins for people with no history of heart disease.

The Cochrane Collaboration systematic review looked at data from 14 trials involving more than 34,000 patients, concluding that although these drugs reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke and high cholesterol in people without cardiovascular disease, the benefits are questionable.

These drugs, like Lipitor and Crestor, are usually taken for a lifetime, and researchers estimate 20 per cent of Canadians over 45 are taking them. The numbers show Canadians spent more than $2 billion on more than 30 million statin prescriptions last year.

The Cochrane review also flagged concerns about potentially biased reporting in the studies. Eight of the 14 trials did not report on adverse effects, two of the trials stopped early, and the subjects were mostly white, middle-aged men, suggesting the results may not be applicable to women and the elderly.

Potential side effects include muscle weakness, liver inflammation, and cognitive impairments. Bottom line: talk to your doctor.

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