Prominent United Kingdom physicians are becoming increasingly vocal that almost half of patients taking statins have developed material side effects according to recent research, and recently covered in Express by Lucy Johnson.

Recent Statin Study Reveals Significant Side Effects

A recent study included 556 patients taking statins over a four year period. Investigators found evidence that up to 49% of the statin patients experienced adverse reactions such as mental health disorders, sleep and brain function problems. Moreover, about 25% experienced muscle pains, and nearly 20% battled with memory or cognitive challenges. This research will be published by Current Vascular Pharmacology. There is a growing schism between physicians, academics and industry over the widespread prescribing of statin drugs. The industry has generated tremendous sales of statin products, but many wonder whether this is the right approach based on available data.

In the UK statin drugs are routinely given to patients with at least a 10% risk of developing heart disease. This equals 8 million Britons. Many experts are adamant of their importance. For example, the British Heart Foundation notes they form “an important and proven treatment for lowering cholesterol and reducing the risk of potentially fatal heart attack or stroke.”

Prominent Vocal Anti-Statin Physicians (Including the Queen’s Physician)

But a growing opposition forms, including some prominent physicians such as Professor Sir Richard Thompsonformer president of the Royal College of Physicians and physician to the Queen. Sir Richard has noted, “this is a worry and further evidence that side effects do occur in statins and should no longer be denied.” Sir Richard continued, “it shows we need an independent study of the side effects. It is of particular concern to GPs who have to deal with patients and discuss drug side effects versus the long term benefits which evidence shows are very small.” The former Queen’s doctor concluded, “most, if not all of the published data on statins shows that taking them shows no overall reduction in death rates, so this paper suggests for any patients the benefits may not outweigh the harms.”

Allegations that Oxford is Hiding Statin Side Effect Data

Dr. Aseem Malhotra, heart specialist and big statin critic is even on records in the video (see link below) that Oxford is essentially hiding information about statin side effects due to industry pressure. Dr. Malhotra notes:

“this is further evidence showing a discrepancy between the higher rate of side effects in a real world setting compared to the non-independent results of drug sponsored trials on selected patients. In my mind it is clear. The evidence about the lack of side effects derived from research carried out by industry-sponsored conflicted scientists needs to be completely disregarded.”

The British Medical Journal’s Fiona Godlee chimed in, noting that “we are still lacking real world evidence on the rate of adverse of statins. There needs to be an independent assessment.”  Moreover another anti-statin champion Dr. Malcolm Kendrick, author of “The Great Cholesterol Connoted, “this is very worrying and shows that in a real-life study there are more adverse effects reported than the tightly controlled industry-sponsored statin studies where patients were selected.”

Oxford University, again critically questioned by Dr. Aseem Malhotra, has produced studies evidencing the benefits of statins.  However, Express reported on a separate analysis of the Oxford study, published in The Lancet, revealed that the data was misleading, as most over 75 in the study had no history of heart problems, hence complicating the logic underlying the Oxford study. But, the UK’s drug regulatory authority, the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Authority (MHRA) aligns 100% with industry noting that side effects are rare.

Who is right here? Who should the average person believe? For that matter, who should physicians and other healthcare professionals believe?

Most Mainstream Studies Reveal Statins Perfectly Safe: But….

In 2018, a large multi-national research group published a study and sought to review statin side effects. Titled “Adverse effects of statin therapy: perception vs. the evidence—the focus on glucose homeostasis, cognitive renal and hepatic function, hemorrhagic stroke and cataract,” it found that the benefits of statin far outweigh the risks. In fact, they state that long-term statin use is “remarkably safe.”

A study in Ireland and summarized by The Irish Times was commissioned as statin consumption represent a large portion of public payer drug spend. They showcased Paula Byrne, Galway NUI who studied statin use. She told The Irish Times, essentially that it is questionable if statins make a difference to those with no history of a cardiovascular event.  She is skeptical of statins’ use for preventative measures—a “contested area in statin use.” She notes that for those with moderate to low risk levels (and low cholesterol measures) the usage of statins may not be an optimal treatment standard.

TrialSite News covered the recent University of Nottingham statin research results evidencing that 51% of the time statins fail to achieve results. The study showcases the need to move to more personalized approaches to lipid management for patients.

Others are fiercely anti-statin and take what appear to be a somewhat radical stance. For example the website of Kelly Brogan, MD declares a new study highlights “the chemical war against cholesterol using statin drugs was justified through statistical deception and cover up for over 300 adverse health effects documented in the biomedical literature.”

Wikipedia has summarized some statin side effects—certain studies have found there to be materially few side effects while others evidence more.  

For the TrialSite News viewer: take care of your health first and foremost. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables; cut back on red meat and sodium; get rid of the sodas; become more active; engage in regular exercise; work on your garden; and take a walk up the stairs rather than the elevator. Lose weight and get into fighting shape. If you are diagnosed with low cardiovascular risk then keep it up, and if you have moderate to high risk then keep it up and see your doctor. When you are diagnosed and given prescription options—do your homework. Our healthcare system represents a quasi-market. We are healthcare consumers, which means that we must become knowledgeable so that we can make the best possible choice for our bodies. Remember, no one else will take care of you, like you.

Source: Express

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