Warning as 4p pill could save 18MILLION from ‘heart attack, stroke and death’

THEY are the most commonly prescribed drug in the UK, yet many still shun statins.

Around eight million adults take them daily, but their disputed side-effects — namely muscle aches — have long put many people off.

Around eight million adults take statins daily but their disputed side-effects have long put many people off

Around eight million adults take statins daily but their disputed side-effects have long put many people offCredit: Alamy

However, a major new study has shown that the pains some report are more likely a result of old age.

GPs are now being advised to offer patients greater reassurance about the 4p pills in the hope millions more will take them when prescribed and cut their chance of heart attack or stroke.

About 18million people are eligible for statins, including almost all men over the age of 60 and women over 65.

A small clinical trial of 12 patients from the Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre in Glasgow, has also found this week that statins – when used alongside specific hormone treatment – could help slow tumour growth in prostate cancer patients.

Darrel Francis, professor of cardiology at the National Heart and Lung Institute, explains: “Statins are extremely powerful in preventing heart disease but a lot of people aren’t taking them because of their worries about side-effects.

“If people suspect a statin is making them unwell, they stop taking them.

“The end result is they get a heart attack or stroke and die. They are dying for no good reason and because they have been given misinformation.”

The study, presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress in Barcelona and published in the Lancet, gave 155,000 people either a statin or a placebo.

Of those on the real statin, 27.1 per cent reported muscle pain, while 26.6 per cent taking the placebo also reported muscle pain.

“This means that over 90 per cent of the time, when a patient taking a statin gets muscle pain, it isn’t the drug that’s causing it,” says Prof Darrel.

“It’s unpleasant and, of course, no one wants to have muscle pain, but these drugs could save your life.”

Need to know

STATINS are a group of medicines that help lower the level of non-HDL (or “bad”) cholesterol in the blood.

“We use them because they slow down the hardening of the arteries,” says Prof Darrel.

“They’ve been around more than 20 years and there is an enormous amount of research on them.

“They are given to anyone where medics want to slow down the development of coronary disease.”

Coronary disease is one of the leading causes of death in the UK, with heart and circulatory conditions killing 166,000 people a year.

“We’re all at risk,” says Prof Darrel. A doctor will recommend statins if you have been diagnosed with a form of cardiovascular disease or if your personal and family history suggests you may develop it in the next ten years.

According to the NHS, many people who take statins experience no or few side-effects

Others may experience minor issues, such as diarrhoea, headaches or feeling sick.

The NHS states: “The risks of any side-effects also have to be balanced against the benefits of preventing serious problems.”

Prof Darrel adds: “The risk of taking these drugs is that you don’t die of a heart attack, you don’t die of a stroke and we have fewer funerals.”

Controversy

A 2017 study suggested statins were linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, but many experts have pointed to limitations in the research.

Professor Peter Weissberg, medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said people in the study who developed diabetes had more early indicators of the disease at the start than those who didn’t, suggesting statins may just have advanced the condition in those already at risk.

He also said the study didn’t look at what happened to people after. Evidence suggests they live longer, regardless of whether or not they develop type 2 diabetes.

But US researcher David Diamond believes statins do little to prevent heart disease.

He argued bad cholesterol alone has “a very weak association” with heart disease and stroke.

But Prof Darrel says that position is “nonsense” – and statistics back him up.

In a 2015 study, statins led to a 21 per cent reduction in the risk of major vascular events, a 24 per cent reduction in the risk of major coronary events and a 15 per cent reduction in stroke.

“If you want to kill people, the most effective way to do this in the modern era is to persuade them to stop or never start taking statins,” says Prof Darrel

“In the long term, one in ten will be killed by that choice.”

‘I‘ve had no side-effects and they might save my life’

CAROLE RAILTON, 71, an author and body language consultant from London, initially refused to take statins because she was worried about side-effects.

Then she tested positive for Covid last November and had to go in to hospital.

Carole Railton initially refused to take statins because she was worried about side-effects

Carole Railton initially refused to take statins because she was worried about side-effectsCredit: Carole Railton

She says: “The infection affected my heart and caused some blood clots.

“Doctors warned me my cholesterol reading was very high.”

Carole had high cholesterol a decade previous and managed to lower it by changing her diet. “I said I’d do the same again,” she says.

“I’d seen some negative reports about statins and how they could cause muscle aches and pains, so I wasn’t very keen to take them and worried I’d end up worse off.

“For ten months after being discharged from hospital I ate really well, cutting out all fat.

“Tests in July, however, showed my cholesterol remained high.

“I went back to see my cardiologist and my cholesterol was 8.2. It should have been around 2.5.

“He said it was dangerously high and if it were him, he’d take statins

“I was told I was at a very high risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

“Reluctantly, I agreed. I’ve had no side-effects at all and feel no different now I’m taking statins

“While I’d always prefer to do things the natural way where possible, these drugs may save my life.”

High cholesterol

HIGH cholesterol is when you have too much of the fatty substance called cholesterol in your blood.

It’s mainly caused by eating fatty food, not exercising enough, being overweight, smoking and drinking alcohol.

It can also run in families.

There are two types: Non-HDL (“bad”) cholesterol – also called LDL –, which clogs up the arteries, and HDL (“good”) cholesterol, which helps clean them.

Too much cholesterol can block blood vessels and make you more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke.

There are no symptoms of high cholesterol.

You can only find out if you have it from a blood test or finger prick test.

A healthy level of total cholesterol is five or below.

Non-HDL should be at four or below while your HDL should be one or above.