The statin debate

By Sharon Collins

Statins have been hailed as wonder drugs that save lives, but not everyone is convinced. What's the evidence for and against cholesterol-lowering medication?
Assorted medicationWhat's the evidence for and against cholesterol-lowering medication?

Statins are regarded by many doctors as genuine life-savers that protect against heart disease and strokes by reducing levels of blood cholesterol. There have also been suggestions that they have other, unexpected benefits too – including a lowered risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Yet some patients are saying their doctors won’t take them seriously when they complain of unpleasant side effects from taking statins or refuse to accept that the drugs are responsible.

The range of symptoms ascribed by some patients to statins is wide – from itchy scalp to muscle pain by way of breathlessness and insomnia. So it’s not surprising that doctors find it difficult to distinguish genuine side effects from symptoms that are purely coincidental and unrelated to the medication.

The balance of evidence from medical trials suggests statins are safe and effective and relatively free of significant side effects. It’s a view that Dr Mike Schachter endorses, but with which Macclesfield GP Dr Malcolm Kendrick disagrees.

Find out why Dr Kendrick believes statins are being prescribed too freely, then find out why his is a minority view among doctors.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.


  • Assorted meds

    What you need to know about statins

    Cholesterol-busting statins may also help with a range of other conditions from Alzheimer's to high blood pressure and cancer. We examine the evidence.

    Read on

  • Medication

    The case in favour of statins

    Dr Mike Schachter investigates how statins work in people. He's also a general physician at St Mary's Hospital, London

    Read on

  • Pink tablets

    The case against statins

    Dr Malcolm Kendrick argues that disadvantages of statins outweigh possible benefits for the majority of people. Statin prescribing is increasing by 30% each year and soon everyone over 50 will be told they need them

    Read on

  • Medication

    Statins and side effects

    If you take statins and have symptoms that you think may be caused by the drug, there are steps you can take.

    Read on

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  • Howard Fancourt

    Posted: Wednesday 26 March 2014

    I was put on Silverstatins by my doctor which I couldn’t get on with. The doctor then prescribed a different statin which had the same side effects. In fact muscle pain got so bad I could not get out of bed. After coming off statins all the pain went away in a few days.
    In the end I was put on Ezetimibe (a non-statin cholesterol reducing drug) and that gives me severe cramps. (not on muscle which you might expect but on the front of the shin and on top of my foot)

  • Carol

    Posted: Tuesday 18 March 2014

    My cholesterol is 8.2 it has risen to this over a few years of illness , bad back, flu viruses, other crippling viruses, hence pressure on my systems. Taste buds gone, stomach bug left me wit no appetite for five weeks. So basically ate what I wanted. Had another blood test, cholesterol is still high, just getting over flu virus and bronchitis , I know he's going to say I've to take statins, but not going too, have friends on them and their in lots of pain. Will, the Charcoal help, a lady takes

  • angela

    Posted: Friday 14 March 2014

    Hi so glad to read your comments, I am on 80mg a day of atorvastatin, recent MI had 1 stent fitted due to high cholesterol, I have been on them for three months now and I feel worse every single day , pains in my chest my arm my neck is stiff and both my arms, My quality of life has dropped dramatically and do not know where to turn as my GP is very reluctant to take me off them, I have presented myself at A&E twice thinking I was having another heart attack and all tests show im fine,

  • Paul

    Posted: Thursday 06 March 2014

    Within days of starting statins (for cholesterol control) I started with the most chronic indigestion and muscular stiffness. I could barely stay awake or put two ideas together and the day job suffered - "zombie" describes it well. I decided to stop taking the statins. Within a week I was human again. The doctor then prescribed a different statin which had the same side effects. In the end I was put on Ezetimibe (a non-statin cholesterol reducing drug) and everything is now fine.

  • Sally

    Posted: Monday 07 October 2013

    Taking charcoal capsules can reduce cholesterol, thus reducing the need to take statins which are known to block the bodies vital production of CoQ10's - Charcoal is well known for being given to patients of drug over doses to rid the body of toxins...a good free read is The Wisdom Way by Keith Foster - guide to longevity and a health life.

  • Graham Jones

    Posted: Thursday 19 September 2013

    "The balance of evidence from medical trials suggests statins are safe and effective and relatively free of significant side effects."
    Merck Pharmaceutical applied for a patent in 1990 for a statin to include CoQ10 to in their words "prevent the impending muscle pain". These side effects were well known 23 years ago before the drug became so popular.
    Merck didn't actually make use of this patent, but their clinical trials had obviously alerted them to a significant side effect


    Posted: Thursday 25 July 2013

    I found that the statin tablets made me feel like a zombie. I was asleep
    fpr most of thetime and barely felt human. Life did not seem worthwhile and I feel that I want to tell all doctors just how much I HATE STATINS. i WAS ON THESE TABLETS FOR FOUR YEARs
    ,The Quality of life is the most important thing.

  • Jacoba Hewitt

    Posted: Thursday 25 July 2013

    My doctor tried three different Statins on me and each time I was badly affected. the first one gave me muscle pain in my arms. the second one, pain in the calves of my legs and the third one made me practically a cripple. My Christmas cruise was ruined. I asked my doctor to stop giving me statins. I am now back to a very fit and active person, just as I used to be. It certainly does not suit everytone.
    Jacoba H

  • Leon Harvey

    Posted: Thursday 07 March 2013

    Regular pains in joints especially afterperiods of inactivity .now slightly better after reducing statin ranbaxy from 40 to 20 dosage considering using supplement q10 . Advice please. Ps main areas stomach and back .

  • Heeney

    Posted: Saturday 02 February 2013

    I am currently taking the generic eq of Zocor to reduce my LDL. I have several friends who are following the debate on whether taking statins is a plus or minus to heart health. I am trying to watch the Dr. Oz program and listen to you folks and others about all the side effects vs HDL/Trig ratio is at a 3 with statins - keep me posted...thanks YT -Mr. Researcher


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