Patients' intolerance to cholesterol-lowering statin drugs are "overestimated" and "over-diagnosed," a new study has found. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo
Feb. 15 (UPI) -- Patients' intolerance to cholesterol-lowering statin drugs are "overestimated" and "over-diagnosed," a new study has found.
A review of 4 million patients showed that as many as one in two patients stops taking statins because they believe the cholesterol lowering drugs cause muscle pain and other side effects, but the actual prevalence of statin intolerance worldwide is between 6% and 10%.
Researchers said that the findings published in the European Heart Journal show patients are at a greater risk of high cholesterol level complications, such as heart and blood vessel problems, including death, because statin intolerance is "overestimated and over-diagnosed."
"These results were not a surprise to me but they were for many other experts," said Professor Maciej Banach, of the Medical University of Lodz and the University of Zielona Gora, Poland, who carried out the meta-analysis of 176 studies with 4,143,517 patients worldwide, in a statement on the study.
"They show that in most cases, statin intolerance is overestimated and over-diagnosed, and they mean that around 93% of patients on statin therapy can be treated effectively, with very good tolerability and without any safety issues."
"Our findings mean that we should evaluate patients' symptoms very carefully, firstly to see whether symptoms are indeed caused by statins, and secondly, to evaluate whether it might be patients' perceptions that statins are harmful -- the so-called nocebo or drucebo effect, which could be responsible for more than 50% of all symptoms rather than the drug itself."
People who were older, female, of Black or Asian race, obese, suffering from diabetes, had under-active thyroid glands, or had chronic liver or kidney failure were more likely to be statin intolerant, researchers found.
They associated drugs to control irregular heartbeat, use of calcium channel blockers, drinking alcohol and taking higher statin doses with higher risk for statin intolerance. Increased statin risk ranged from 22% for those with high alcohol consumption to 48% of those who were female in these groups.
"It is critically important to know about these risk factors so that we can predict effectively that a particular patient is at higher risk of statin intolerance," Banach said in a statement.
"Then, we can consider upfront other ways to treat them to reduce the risk and improve adherence to treatment. This could include lower stain doses, combination therapy and use of innovative new drugs."