They say the cholesterol-lowering medicines – hailed as miracle drugs when they hit the market 20 years ago – are not as safe or effective at preventing heart attacks as patients have been led to believe.
Although they can dramatically cut cholesterol levels, they have ‘failed to substantially improve cardiovascular outcomes’, says an analysis of data in clinical trials.
It was carried out by Dr David Diamond, a professor of molecular pharmacology at the University of South Florida, and expert in cardiovascular disease Dr Uffe Ravnskov.
They say many studies touting statins’ efficacy have failed to note serious side effects. They also claim ‘statistical deception’ has been used to make inflated claims about their effectiveness, which has misled the public.
The two authors say in the analysis, published in the Expert Review of Clinical Pharmacology: ‘The adverse effects suffered by people taking statins are more common than reported in the media and at medical conferences.
‘Increased rates of cancer, cataracts, diabetes, cognitive impairments and musculoskeletal disorders more than offset the modest cardiovascular benefits of statin treatment.’
They conclude: ‘There is a great appeal to the public to take a pill that offers the promise of a longer life and to live heart attack free.
‘The reality, however, is that statins actually produce only small beneficial effects on cardiovascular outcomes, and their adverse effects are far more substantial than is generally known.’
In July, NHS rationing body Nice said statins should be given to 17million patients, almost 40 per cent of the adult population.
The US experts say those who champion the medication have often presented data in a way that exaggerates the benefits.