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Statins and their ‘bad reputation’

Published : Wednesday November 7, 2012 | Posted in : General Health
high cholesterol illustration

It seems like, similar to red wine, you can't read one good headline about statins without reading another one that reports something bad. However, the overwhelming clinical consensus on the topic is that the risks associated with statins, don't outweigh the benefits. It would seem though, that we are very much intent on attacking prescription medication, especially in the media and especially treatments like statins. The most recent reports on statins, and I refer here particularly to one in the Mail Online, starts with a headline ('Doses of most popular statin to be slashed after fears over side-effects') that would indicate that there is a wide scale crisis regarding the doses of simvastatin.

Simvastatin is one of the most widely used statins and according to the report, many people who are using it at the high 40mg dose to help control their cholesterol, may have to have their dosages lowered because of an increased risk of side effects.

Simvastatin doesn't have a risk for all patients

However, later in the report it becomes clear that simvastatin has an increased risk of muscular side effects if it's taken in conjunction with other medication, such as calcium channel blockers that are used to lower blood pressure. Although negative drug interactions are a risk with all prescription medications, this relationship between hypertensive treatments and statins is new and will also be noted in the new patient information leaflet.

It's not always possible to predict all effects

Statins have been around for years and along with oral contraceptives are one of the most tried and tested medications available. They have helped millions of people live longer, so unlike some other drugs, we have more than just clinical laboratory data proving the effectiveness of statins. The FDA, MHRA and EMA provide guidelines for clinical trials to ensure that a treatment is tested as best as possible to be able to predict its effect on the general public. However, as with all treatments, it's not always possible to predict all it's effects.

Prescription medications have risks

I think that we tend to forget that prescription medications are prescription for a reason, and that is because they should be taken only when a doctor feels that it's in the best interest of their patient. It's therefore important that people on chronic prescription medications bear in mind that no treatment comes without it's risks and it's mostly about finding a medications that offer benefits that will outweigh the risks.

Making sure your medication is right for you

So, with that said, I don't think we should be placing everyone over 50 on statins, which is the case with some advocates of this high cholesterol drug, but I can certainly see their purpose for those who need them. Every patient taking medication for a chronic condition should be aware of the risks and should monitor their health, so that along with their doctor, they are able to find a daily treatment that they are comfortable with.

What you should do if you are taking Simvastatin

The British Heart Foundation is currently advising patients who are using calcium channel blockers such as Amlodipine with Simvastatin should speak to their doctor about their options, particularly if they are on a higher dose. The MHRA is also advising patients to not stop taking Simvastatin, unless they start experiencing muscular side effects, in which case they should speak to their doctor.

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