In 2012, 26 percent of the adult population in the United States used statin, which doctors often prescribe for those with high LDL cholesterol levels.
Although the drug is widely used, many patients are still worried about taking it. Some also experience unwanted side effects associated with use of the drug which include elevated risk for hemorrhagic stroke, diabetes, weakness and muscle pain, which splits the overall acceptance of using the drug.
Findings of a new study, however, looked at the available evidence on the efficacy and safety of using statin therapy, which researchers said could help people decide on whether or not to take the drug.
Researchers who conducted the review, which was published in The Lancet, said that the benefits of using statin have been underestimated and the harms associated with its use have actually been exaggerated.
Based on available evidences, the review found that lowering cholesterol through prescription of a 40-milligram daily dose of atorvastatin would prevent heart attacks, ischemic strokes and coronary artery bypasses in 1,000 patients with a vascular disease over a period of five years.
Statin therapy would also prevent these conditions in 500 more people whose age and medical conditions put them at increased risk but have not yet experienced a vascular event.
The researchers also looked at the occurrence of side effects to determine if the controversies surrounding statin therapy are warranted. They found that among 10,000 patients, the drug would cause five cases of myopathy, up to 10 hemorrhagic strokes associated with weak blood vessels that burst, between 50 and 100 new diabetes cases and up to 100 cases of symptomatic adverse events such as muscle pain.
Study researcher Rory Collins, from the University of Oxford in the UK, said that their findings show that the harms linked with use of statin are tiny. He added that patients should be informed of the harms associated with statins as well as the likelihood of these to happen since there are people who believe that these harms commonly occur.
"Our review shows that the numbers of people who avoid heart attacks and strokes by taking statin therapy are very much larger than the numbers who have side effects," Collins said.
Other studies have linked statins with increased risk for memory loss, kidney injury, cataracts, liver disease, sleep problems, aggression, erectile dysfunction, suicidal behavior and neuropathy but the researchers said these would be extremely rare and evidence for these conditions is not sufficient.