Adverse Reactions (Side Effects)
A summary of potential side effects are presented in a 2006 paper by Ravnskov and co-workers (British Medical Journal v 332, page 1330, 2006), titled "Should we lower cholesterol as much as possible?". Ravnskov quotes results from the IDEAL (2005) study in which agressive lowering of cholesterol was studied: "Almost 90% of participants in both groups had side
effects, and in almost half of them they were recorded as serious". The authors of IDEAL did not inform the readers about the nature of these events!
More information on the adverse effects of statins could be obtained by reporting events in the post-marketing surveillance of the drugs. However, it seems that only a very small fraction of serious side effects are actually reported. There is a potential for heart failure as a result of the lowering by statins of the coenzyme Q10. However, reports on this issue are routinely excluded from statin trials. Published numbers state that muscle complaints occur in less than 1% of patients taking statins. However, there are studies that show that this number is a gross underestimate.
Ravnskov notes that cholesterol is vital for brain function. Therefore reduced concentrations might be responsible for reported symptoms such as mental and neurological complaints such as severe irritability, agressive behaviour, suicidal impulses, cognitive impairment, memory loss, global amnesia, polyneuropathy, and erectile dysfunction. These symptoms vanished after stopping statin taking, and returned after restarting their intake. Statins have also had a cancer inducing effect in lab animals, and there have been indications of enhanced cancer risk in several of the trials with humans.
So should healthy people take statins?
This is up to each and every person's judgment:
Consider whether you have "average" risk, or whether you belong to a high-risk group
Consider whether your lifestyle and genes increase or decrease your probability of contracting CHD.
Consider the very small extension-of-life probability (for average risk people) - is it meaningful to you?
Consider potential side effects.
Is it worth the cost and effort to you and your loved ones?
Talk about this with someone who cares about you!
Decisions are tough. They are one of our responsibilities as humans. Good luck with yours!
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Last Modification - February 8, 2008