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Statins might not be as effective at reducing heart disease than previously thought

Tuesday 23rd April 2019
A new study has found that more than half of people who take statins do not see their cholesterol fall to recommended levels after two years.
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One of the key causes of heart disease is cholesterol - specifically low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) - which clogs up arteries and increases the pressure on the heart, making it more prone to failure. One proven treatment for high cholesterol for a while has been statins, but a new study has suggested that this medication might not be as effective as previously thought.

Researchers from the University of Nottingham examined data - obtained from the UK Clinical Practice Research Datalink - from more than 165,400 patients who had been prescribed statins but had not been affected by cardiovascular disease previously. 

They found that 84,609 of those patients - 51.2 per cent of the total - saw their LDL-C levels drop by less than 40 per cent over two years. This reduction is considered to be too small to be effective. Patients who experienced this ineffective reduction in their LDL-C levels were more likely to develop heart disease than those whose statins worked as expected.

However, this doesn’t mean people should stop taking statins altogether; far from it. Professor Metin Avkiran, associate medical director of the British Heart Foundation, said in response to this research: “Statins are an important and proven treatment for lowering cholesterol and reducing the risk of a potentially fatal heart attack or stroke. If you have been prescribed statins you should continue to take them regularly, as prescribed.”

The main reason not to abandon statins as a treatment is because the research did not state any cause for the medication’s lack of effect among 51.2 per cent of patients. There could be a number of other factors that are causing statins not to work as expected, and more research needs to be conducted to understand these.

One possibility is that there is a genetic factor at play preventing statins from working correctly. Alternatively, other medication might be interacting with the statins, or it could simply be the case that patients aren’t taking their medication as prescribed. Until more is known, it is advisable for people to consult their GP if they have any concerns about the medication they're taking.

Image credit: Pixabay/Myriams-FotosADNFCR-1780-ID-801850074-ADNFCR

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