Statins: How the drug prevents heart attacks and strokes
The primary benefit of taking statins is to lower the amount of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in the blood. LDL cholesterol is a fatty substance that can gum up your arteries and hike your risk of heart disease. Statins produce this effect by blocking a substance your body needs to make cholesterol.
The cholesterol-lowering drugs are an essential part of the heart’s armoury for many people but they can produce unintended effects, some of which can be adverse.
A study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) sought to quantify the unintended effects of statins according to type, dose, and duration of use.
To gather their findings, data on 2,004,692 patients aged 30-84 years were analysed.
The patients were sorted into categories based on the type of statin they were taking: simvastatin, atorvastatin, pravastatin, rosuvastatin, and fluvastatin.
Statins: Statin use associated with an increased risk of moderate or serious liver dysfunction
The data was compared with incidences of cardiovascular disease, moderate or serious myopathic events (disease of the muscles); moderate or serious liver dysfunction; acute renal (kidney) failure; venous thromboembolism (blood clots in the veins); Parkinson’s disease; dementia; rheumatoid arthritis; cataract (clouding of the normally clear lens of your eye); osteoporotic fracture (weakening of the bones); gastric cancer; oesophageal cancer; colon cancer; lung cancer; melanoma; renal cancer; breast cancer or prostate cancer.
What did the researchers find out? Individual statins were not significantly associated with risk of Parkinson’s disease; rheumatoid arthritis; venous thromboembolism; dementia; osteoporotic fracture; gastric cancer; colon cancer; lung cancer; melanoma; renal cancer; breast cancer, or prostate cancer.
However, statin use was associated with an increased risk of the following health conditions:
- Moderate or serious liver dysfunction
- Acute renal (kidney) failure
- Moderate or serious myopathy (disease of the muscles)
- Cataract (clouding of the normally clear lens of your eye).
“Adverse effects were similar across statin types for each outcome except liver dysfunction where risks were highest for fluvastatin,” the researchers wrote.
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