Tuesday, 19 August 2014

More Docs Wonder if Statins Are Worth the Risks

WebMD Health News

Aug. 18, 2014 -- Like so many of his fellow doctors, Kailash Chand, a general practitioner in the U.K., says he was once skeptical when patients complained of muscle pains, weakness, fatigue, and memory problems after he put them on cholesterol-lowering medications called statins.

Then a routine blood test showed Chand had high levels of blood fats called triglycerides, and his own doctor put him on a statin.

"After 6 months, I started noticing that I was having a lack of energy," says Chand, who takes long daily walks and plays badminton. "My regular exercise was curtailed. I was feeling tired and exhausted."

Soon after that, he developed pain in his back so severe that it sent him to specialist, who "couldn't find much," Chand says. Blood tests, X-rays, and MRI scans showed no obvious problems.

"By this time, I was looking into everything I could think of," he says.

Then he happened to notice in the package insert for his medication that muscle pain might be a side effect of taking it.

He mentioned it to his son, who is a cardiologist. "And he said, ‘Yes, Dad, it could be the statin.’"

Within a few weeks of stopping the drug, he felt much better. His had less pain, and some nagging sleep problems also improved.

The news hasn’t been all good. His triglycerides have gone back up, too.  "They are almost double what they should be, but I'm not bothering anymore," he says.

Debate Over Statins Heating Up

Chand, who is also the deputy chairman of the British Medical Association, says he’s still a staunch advocate for statins given to people to help prevent a second heart attack or stroke. In those cases, he says, he believes the benefits of the drug usually outweigh their risks.

But he has changed his tune on giving patients statins when they show no signs of heart disease but have a risk factor for it, such as high cholesterol or diabetes.

His shift is at the heart of a simmering debate in medicine over whether statins are effective enough for some patients to justify their risks. And it comes at a time when statins – already one of the most commonly prescribed medications in this country taken by an estimated 1 in 4 middle-aged adults– may become even more widely used. New cholesterol guidelines, introduced last November, could push that number to as many as 1 in 2 adults over age 40, according to a recent analysis in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The study found most of those new prescriptions would be written for patients like Chand -- people between the ages of 60 and 75 without known heart disease. Instead, they have certain risk factors -- age, smoking, elevated cholesterol, or diabetes, for example -- that raise their risk of having a heart attack or stroke over the next 10 years.

source : More Docs Wonder if Statins Are Worth the Risks

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