A recent study concluded that statins are good for low risk patients. This study (Univ. of Sydney) was actually an analysis of 27 different studies and the conclusion was that statins actually saved the lives of low risk patients, meaning those that have less than a 10% risk of having a heart attack or stroke over the next five years.
This particular study prompted Australia to call for a board to review the prescription of statins to these low risk patients.
Their study shows that 11 out of 1000 low risk patients are saved from having a heart attack or stroke or about 1%. They quote that this is a 15% lower risk of cardiovascular death. So instead of 6% of the low risk patients having a problem, 5% do. Yes, that’s a 15% reduction based on the quoted statistics.
What’s wrong with this picture? This means that 989 patients have to take statins for 11 to get relief. This is about 1 percent showing benefit.
Statins have a side effect rate that is much higher than 1%. Studies quote 2.3% or so, but if you ask people on statins, almost no one is without complaint. The complaints include feeling weak and tired, being more forgetful, joints hurting, muscles not working properly, and muscle pain. There is also the problem of the unfelt effects, at least not right away, of risk of liver damage, cancer, and long term memory problems that have been documented. There are other articles on this website pointing to the studies that show this.
Many people continue to take statins despite not feeling very good because of the fear of heart attack. And many of them find the way the pills make them feel make it very difficult to follow the orders of getting more exercise and eating better because of fatigue. These are the very things that would improve the chances of surviving than taking a very invasive medication.
Are statins really good for low risk patients?
Writing in The Medical Journal of Australia, the researchers said there was now ”considerable evidence that statin therapy reduces cardiovascular events” in low-risk patients.
”While there is no substitute for lifestyle modification, the capacity for statin pharmacotherapy to assist in the treatment of individuals at lower risk has now been shown,” they said.
In examining whether statins are good for low risk patients, these researchers shouldn’t just look at statistics of people saved. The questions I would like to see answered before such a recommendation can be made is how many people would be harmed by taking statins. They look at lowered cardiovascular risk, but what about increased risk of other problems? Studies have shown the death rate did not improve, only cardiovascular events were slightly improved.
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