Sunday, 27 October 2013

Are statins being overprescribed?

I was shocked to be told by a pharmacist that there's an 'unwritten principle' that everyone over 60 should be put on statins.  I know that statins have a number of possible side-effects, including memory loss (as I've mentioned previously).

A few days after my conversation with the pharmacist, I read this article:

For those who may not have time to read the article, this extract will give you a flavour:

"In the UK eight million people take statins regularly, up from five million 10 years ago," he writes. "With 60 million statin prescriptions a year, it is difficult to demonstrate any additional effect of statins on reduced cardiovascular mortality over the effects of the decline in smoking and primary angioplasty [a technique used by doctors to widen the arteries].
In the original trials carried out by drug firms, only one in 10,000 patients given statins suffered a minor side-effect. But among 150,000 patients in a "real world" study – people who had been routinely given statins by their GP – 20% had side-effects that were so unacceptable to them that they stopped taking the pills, including muscle pains, stomach upsets, sleep and memory disturbance, and erectile dysfunction."
Naturally the medical and pharmaceutical establishment disagree, but it's possible that the tide is starting to turn in favour of a more cautious approach to the prescription of 'statins for all'.

Oct 28th:  I'm adding to this post because I have learned that the British Medical Journal has come out against 'statins for all' (in this case, all over 50).  This article seems to me to explain the debate very clearly:

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