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Call to give patients choice over statins

10 September 2015 09:37

Statins can cause a range of side-effects, doctors warn

Statins can cause a range of side-effects, doctors warn

Doctors are calling for patients to have a greater say in whether or not they take statins.

Professor James McCormack, Dr Aseem Malhotra and Professor David Newman argue that only a limited number of patients benefit from the drugs.

In an editorial for UK medical journal Prescriber, the trio say patients should be allowed to stop using statins if they experience side-effects.

Individual preferences

Unwanted effects range from sore throats and nausea to digestive problems, and muscle and joint pain.

Around one in 10 patients suffer side-effects when taking statins, according to the doctors.

Less than one in every 200 healthy patients who take statins actually live longer because of the drugs, they estimate.

Prof McCormack, Dr Malhotra and Prof Newman want the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence and the American Heart Association to give more attention to individual preference when prescribing medicines, instead of using treatment targets.

They say patients should be better educated on the impact of changing their diet, exercise and smoking before being directed towards statins.

Statins can help lower the level of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol in the blood, high levels of which can lead to a hardening and narrowing of the arteries. This increases the risk of cardiovascular disease.

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Conflicting views

Sir Richard Thompson, former president of the Royal College of Physicians, says the editorial offers a timely reminder that it is not easy to discover how patients weigh the benefits of a medication against its risks.

But Dr Tim Chico, reader in cardiovascular medicine and consultant cardiologist at the University of Sheffield, disagrees that treatment targets remove individual preferences.

He claims they simply guide doctors as to which patients might benefit from a treatment.