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Heart patients urged to keep taking statins

WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Sheena Meredith

2nd June 2014 – Heart patients on statins should continue to take them as prescribed because their benefits outweigh the risks of any side effects, says the medicines watchdog.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) issued the advice in its latest monthly Drug Safety Update.

It says the evidence from large clinical trials has shown that statins can save lives by reducing the risk of heart attacks, strokes and the need for heart surgery.

Reducing cholesterol

Statins are frequently prescribed for patients at risk of a heart attack because of their ability to cut levels of LDL- cholesterol – the so-called ‘bad’ cholesterol.

It is estimated that up to 7 million people in the UK are taking statins.

Last month the British Medical Journal (BMJ) announced it was setting up a panel to investigate claims that 2 articles published in 2013 had overestimated the risk of serious side effects from statins while downplaying their ability to save lives. Heart health experts warned that their conclusions could deter people from taking the medication.

Muscle pain

Side-effects vary between different statins and the dose taken. Side effects include:

Latest advice from the MHRA says that most side effects experienced by people who take statins are mild. The most commonly reported side-effect is mild muscle pain, says the review.

Saving lives

In a statement, Dr June Raine, the MHRA’s director of vigilance and risk management of medicines, says: "People should continue to take their statins as prescribed. Large clinical trials have shown that statins can save lives by reducing the risk of heart attacks, strokes and the need for heart surgery.

"The MHRA continually reviews the information on the safety of statins. We will update the prescribing advice for statins in light of any substantial new evidence of safety concerns. If patients have any concerns about their medicines then they should speak to their doctor.”

The MHRA urges anyone who experiences a side-effect as a result of taking statins to report it via its Yellow Card Scheme.

Commenting in a statement, Maureen Talbot, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, says: “All medicines can have side effects, but the millions of people who take statins in the UK are reducing their risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

“We welcome the MHRA’s review of the evidence and the reassuring message to patients that statins can have life-long health benefits for those assessed to be at high risk from heart disease.

“Patients should contact their doctor if they are worried or experience any symptoms.”

Reviewed on June 02, 2014

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