Statins review ‘should lay the issue to rest’

women's heart health: woman makes heart shape with hands backlit by sunset

A leading heart health stakeholder has welcomed a major review published in The Lancet that conclusively highlights the benefits of using statins outweighs the risks.

“The number of lives saved far outweighs these adverse effects,” Heart Foundation Chief Medical Advisor Prof Garry Jennings says.

The review – Interpretation of the evidence for the efficacy and safety of statin therapy – involved world-leading cardiovascular researchers and is intended to help doctors, people with heart disease and the community make informed choices on the use of statins.

“This is the most comprehensive review published to date of the mainstream scientific literature on the benefits and risks associated with statins,” says Prof Jennings.

“While the conclusions are not new, they are conclusive and should lay the issue to rest – used in people with vascular disease or high risk of vascular disease the benefits of statins far outweigh any risks.

“By weighting the evidence towards rigorous randomised controlled trials, which are less susceptible to bias than other studies, the authors have provided convincing evidence that if anything the benefits of statins have been underestimated in the mainstream scientific literature and the risks have been overestimated.

“The analysis concluded that although there are some side-effects with statins, these affect very few people taking them – little more than placebo when head-to-head comparisons are examined.

“The review also provides the best analysis yet of the relationship between cholesterol (total and more importantly LDL cholesterol) and risk of heart attacks, stroke and other major vascular events.”

The relationship is direct and unquestionable, he says.

“There was no support in the data for a widely held view in some circles that statins impair memory or cause dementia.

“The writing group consisted of a distinguished group of international experts in the conduct and analysis of clinical research. There has been no equivalent group presenting an opposing view.

“Fears have been created amongst the community however by ill-informed people quoting fallacious or poorly designed studies and promoting conspiracy theories.

“In the light of this report this should now stop before more lives are lost when people stop statins from which they would benefit.”

The authors reviewed more than 30 years of evidence from research on statins with the intention of explaining how the available evidence on the effectiveness and safety of statin therapy should be interpreted.


The facts on statins

  • Statins are one of the leading prescribed drugs in Australia (23 million prescriptions dispensed annually)
  • There are 2.2 million Australians who are taking statins
  • Two-thirds of Australians who have had a heart attack and/or stroke are taking statins
  • Statins work to lower the level of cholesterol in the blood.

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