STATINS lower the level of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol in the blood, which is often referred to as “bad cholesterol”, and statins reduce the production of it inside the liver. Though they can be very effective and help prevent a number of health issues, there are also some potential side effects.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, NICE, has listed common side effects for all statins. It says a key one is asthenia, which refers to extreme weakness and a lack of energy. It says other common side effects are: constipation, diarrhoea, dizziness, flatulence, gastrointestinal discomfort, headache and sleep disorders.
“Speak to your doctor if you have muscle pain, tenderness or weakness that cannot be explained – for example, pain that is not caused by physical work.”
The health body says rare side effects of statins include:
- Muscle weakness (myopathy)
- Loss of sensation or tingling in the nerve endings of the hands and feet (peripheral neuropathy)
- Tendon problems (tendons are tough cords of tissue that connect muscles to bones).
Uncommon side effects include skin problems, such as acne or an itchy red rash.
The NHS says there are five types of statin available on prescription in the UK. They include atorvastatin, fluvastatin, pravastatin, rosuvastatin and simvastatin.
The NHS recommends maintaining cholesterol levels below 5mmol/L. In the UK, however, three out of five adults have a total cholesterol of 5mmol/L or above, and the average cholesterol level is about 5.7mmol/L, which can be a risk factor in heart disease.
The health body notes side effects can vary between different statins, but common side effects can occur throughout the day and also at night.
The British Heart Foundation (BHF) says a research study suggested that, in very rare cases, statins may increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
“However statins are among the safest and the most studied medications available today,” it suggests.
The NHS notes a review of scientific studies, into the effectiveness of statins, found around one in every 50 people who take the medicine for five years will avoid a serious event, such as a heart attack or stroke, as a result.
You usually have to continue taking statins for life because if you stop taking them, your cholesterol will return to a high level within a few weeks.
The Yellow Card Scheme allows you to report suspected side effects from any type of medicine.
The Yellow Card Scheme allows you to report suspected side effects from any type of medicine you’re taking.
It is run by a medicines safety watchdog called the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
The purpose of the scheme is to provide an early warning that the safety of a medicine or a medical device may require further investigation.
Side effects reported on Yellow Cards are evaluated, together with additional sources of information such as clinical trial data.
You usually have to continue taking statins for life.
The Mayo Clinic says: “Lowering cholesterol isn’t the only benefit associated with statins. These medications have also been linked to a lower risk of heart disease and stroke.
“These drugs may help stabilise the plaques on blood vessel walls and reduce the risk of certain blood clots.”
The organisation adds: “You may think that if your cholesterol goes down, you don’t need a statin anymore. But if the drug helped lower your cholesterol, you’ll likely need to stay on it long term to keep your cholesterol down.
“If you make significant changes to your diet or lose a lot of weight, talk to your doctor about whether it might be possible to control your cholesterol without medication.”