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.


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

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    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.

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