Dec. 10 (UPI) -- Despite recent reports that warn about the dangers of statins to lower cholesterol, one major medical organization still supports their use to fight heart attacks.
After reviewing several studies assessing their risks and side effects, the American Heart Association has determined that the risks of taking statins to be outweighed by their benefits -- depending on the individual patient.
"In most cases, you should not stop taking your statin medication if you think you are having side effects from the drug -- instead, talk to your healthcare provider about your concerns. Stopping a statin can significantly increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke caused by a blocked artery," Mark Creager, former AHA president, said in a press release.
According to the association, 25 percent of Americans older than age 40 takes statins. About 10 percent of patients stop taking statins because they say the drug causes symptoms.
The statement from the AHA declaring the low risk of statin use comes only days after researchers at the University of Zurich published a study warning doctors of overprescribing statins.
"Ultimately, this measure helps to prevent heart attacks or strokes in only a few cases. But all people who take statins are at risk of experiencing the side effects," Milo Puhan, a professor of epidemiology and public health at the University of Zurich, said last week.
The AHA says that a small risk exists for statins to increase a person's chances of developing diabetes. They also say statin-users at risk for developing the condition usually already have risk factors, like inactive lifestyles and obesity.
The association says drug trials show that new patient's risk for developing diabetes through statin use is 0.2 percent. They also say there's a 0.2 percent chance that statins can cause rhabdomyolysis, a condition that can lead to kidney failure.
A 2013 National Institutes of Health study concluded statin therapy increased a person's risk for developing type 2 diabetes by 14 percent.
After reviewing several studies on statin side effects, the authors of the AHA report say there is "little evidence" that statins posed a major risk of causing liver damage, neurological effects, peripheral neuropathy, cataracts, tendon ruptures or other conditions.
However, according to Larry B. Goldstein, co-author of the AHA report, the two reports agree that patients should consult with their doctors before taking the drug.
"Both agree that decisions about whether to start a stain depends on weighing the risks and benefits and should involve a discussion between patients and healthcare providers incorporating patient values," Goldstein told UPI.
The AHA recommends statins for adults ages 40 to 75 years with LDL, or bad, cholesterol of 70 to 189 mg/dL and a 7.5 percent or higher risk for having a heart attack or stroke within 10 years.
But the researchers from Zurich call for statins use in men and women age 70 to 75 only if their chance of suffering a heart attack or stroke is 21 percent in the next 10. For people 40 to 45, the risk factor is between 14 and 17 percent.
Either way, Goldstein and his co-authors says the benefits of statins far outweigh the risks.
"The overwhelming data from multiple randomized trials is that they are highly beneficial in appropriately selected patients," Goldstein said.