The side effects of statins have been exaggerated by unreliable studies, when in fact they are safe and effective, claims a major new medical review.
Stains, which are prescribed to patients at risk of Coronary Heart Disease and work to lower the levels of cholesterol in the blood, have long been plagued by accusations that they are unsafe.
Official NHS advice states that “many people” who take statins experience no side effects, and for those who do they will be minor and include slight headaches or stomach upset.
In 2013, there were eight million people in the UK on some form of prescribed anti-cholesterol drug.
However, estimates suggest that hundreds of thousands of patients, who would benefit from taking the drug, have stopped taking them after reading to negative reviews in medical studies.
This new report, published in the Lancet medical journal, has been made public in an effort to curb a scare on the same scale as that of the MMR vaccine – when a report, which has since been discredited, linked it to autism.
Dr Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet, said: “We saw in a very painful way the consequences of publishing a paper which had a huge impact on the confidence in a safe and effective vaccine.”
The review found that the potential risks of a negative reaction are far outweighed by the benefits of taking statins.
The number of people who avoid heart attacks and strokes by undergoing statin therapy is much larger than those who experience detrimental side effects.
The review found that side-effects can include developing muscle pain, diabetes or a haemorrhagic stroke, but suggestions that statins cause other conditions, such as memory loss, cataracts, kidney injury, liver disease, sleep disturbance, aggression or erectile dysfunction, are not accurate.
Heart disease is responsible for more than 73,000 deaths in the UK each year.