Statins appear to cause few side effects, according to what was described as the largest meta-analysis on statin side effects to date.
Researchers reviewed data from 135 previous drug studies to evaluate the safety of the seven statins on the market. “As a class, adverse events associated with statin therapy are not common,” they wrote in an article published July 9 on the website of Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.
Researchers noted that simvastatin and pravastatin, the generic names of the brands Zocor and Pravachol, were found to have the best safety profile in the class. This finding particularly held true when patients were prescribed low to moderate doses of those statins, said Huseyin Naci, MHS, the studys lead author and a doctoral candidate at the London School of Economics and Political Science and research fellow at Harvard Medical Schools Department of Population Medicine.
The researchers also noted a 9% increased risk of diabetes among statin users. But according to a previous study, 250 patients need to be treated with a statin for one case of diabetes to be diagnosed.
“I am concerned that patients may misunderstand this small increase in risk and stop adhering to their medications,” Naci said in a news release. The proven ability of statins to significantly cut the rate of death and hospitalization in patients who have heart disease outweighs the “small increase in diabetes risk,” he said.
Researchers reviewed trials published between 1985 and early 2013, covering almost 250,000 patients. On average, the trials lasted a bit longer than a year. Some compared one statin to another, while others compared a statin to an inactive placebo.
The study also found that statins were not linked to an increase in cancer risk. However, the drugs were associated with a typically reversible increase in liver enzymes, which Naci said resulted in a very low rate of actual liver toxicity in statin patients.
“Although the benefits of statins clearly outweigh risks at the population level, individualizing such benefits and risks is more difficult,” he said. “This brings into sharp focus the importance of identifying the individuals who stand to benefit the most from statin therapy.”
Read a PDF of the study: http://circoutcomes.ahajournals.org/content/early/2013/07/09/CIRCOUTCOMES.111.000071.full.pdf.