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Risk of Statins Small and Benefits are Great

Dr. Wayne Leimbach, Director of the Cardiac and Interventional Laboratories at Oklahoma Heart Institute, comments on recent news regarding a large study finding statin medication as a class are “well tolerated.”

Statins are a class of medications that lower cholesterol levels. Elevated LDL-cholesterol has been shown to be a major risk factor for the development of blockages in blood vessels to the heart and brain. Lowering LDL-cholesterol levels with statins has been shown in many large trials to significantly lower the risk of heart attacks and strokes and decrease the need for surgery or stents to treat severely blocked vessels.

The safety of statins has been questioned in the past due to reported concerns over side effects of muscle weakness, elevation of liver function test and a risk of developing diabetes.

A recently published trial looking at the results of 246,955 subjects randomized to receive either a statin medication or a placebo (pill with no medication in it), showed no differences in rate of discontinuation for adverse events between the patients receiving statins versus placebo. There was a slightly higher rate for the development of diabetes mellitus in the statin use, as has been previously reported.

It should be stated, however, that studies have shown when statins are used in patients with diabetes, there are less heart attacks, strokes or death from heart attacks by 5 years of treatment as compared to similar patients not taking statins.

This study further supports the wide spread use of statins to help prevent the number one cause of death in the United States, which is cardiovascular disease.

 

Photo credit: CNN