‘Just-in-case’ statin drug use is dangerous
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Many people who reach their mid-fifties will be on a cholesterol-lowering statin drug, often as a ‘just-in-case’ measure. But the practice offers no benefits, and it could even be harmful, a new study suggests.
People who don’t have heart problems shouldn’t be taking a statin drug, which can cause liver problems, kidney failure and muscle weakness, say researchers from the Cochrane Collaboration. As we age, cholesterol also becomes more important, and helps the brain function efficiently. Some cases of dementia in the elderly are caused by too low levels of cholesterol rather than ageing.
Lead researcher Fiona Taylor says: “The decision to prescribe statins in this group (older people with no heart problems) should not be taken lightly.”
Doctors routinely prescribe statins to most patients over the age of 55 or so; low-dose versions of the drugs are also available at pharmacies without a prescription.
(Source: Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2011; 1: CD004816).