AHA scientific statement: statins are low-risk, beneficial drugs

  • Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol

  • curated by Emily Willingham, PhD
  • Clinical Essentials
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Takeaway

  • Statins offer “substantial benefits” for patients at risk for cardiovascular disease, with a low risk for side effects, concludes this scientific statement from the American Heart Association (AHA).
  • Group reviewed many studies, mostly randomized controlled trials, of safety and side effects.

Why this matters

  • >25% of US adults over age 40 years take a statin to reduce risk for cardiovascular diseases, including stroke.
  • At peak effect, statins reduce low-density lipoprotein cholesterol by up to 60%.
  • Yet 1 in 10 patients stops a statin because of “subjective complaints,” say the statement authors (e.g., muscle symptoms despite normal creatine kinase measures).
  • “Overall ... the benefits greatly outweigh the risks,” say the authors.

Key results

  • Statement authors cover general and specific populations including pregnant women, older adults, children, those with comorbidities such as kidney disease, and certain ethnicities.
  • Risk for muscle injury related to statins is
  • Serious hepatotoxicity risk is ~0.001%.
  • Risk for a new diabetes diagnosis is about 0.2% per year of treatment.
  • Statins might raise the risk for hemorrhagic stroke in patients with cerebrovascular disease. 
  • The authors find “no convincing evidence” for links to cancer, erectile dysfunction, tendonitis, cataracts, cognitive dysfunction, or peripheral vascular disease.

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