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Statins May be of Little Help to Otherwise Healthy People with High Cholesterol

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If you take a statin – Levacor, Zocor, Pravachol, Lipitor, Crestor, etc. – to control your cholesterol, but don’t have any risk factors for heart disease, you might not need the medication. According to a review conducted by the Cochrane Collaboration, a nonprofit research organization, statins may be of little benefit to such patients.

“This review highlights important shortcomings in our knowledge about the effects of statins in people who have no prior history of [cardiovascular disease],” said lead study author Fiona Taylor, of the Cochrane Heart Group in London. “The decision to prescribe statins in this group should not be taken lightly.”

The analysis pooled data on 34,272 patients from 14 randomized controlled trials, and 11 of these examined the effects of statins in people with risk factors, including raised lipids, diabetes, hypertension, and microalbuminuria. The Cochrane reviewers reported that there was insufficient evidence to support the use of statins in patients with no history of heart disease. They also pointed out problems with many of the trials, including selective reporting of outcomes (‘cherry picking’), failure to report adverse events and inclusion of people with cardiovascular disease.

Statins have been shown to reduce heart attacks, strokes, and deaths in higher risk patients such as those with diabetes or established heart disease. But the drugs are often prescribed for people with less than a 10 percent risk of having a heart attack in the next 10 years. According to a report from The Boston Globe, American Heart Association recommends that low-risk patients with high cholesterol consider taking a statin if lifestyle changes, such as increased exercise or weight loss, don’t work to bring cholesterol levels down.

Statins do carry rare but serious side effects, including the breakdown of muscle tissue, memory loss and a nervous system malfunction called neuropathy.

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