Although the drug's manufacturers are expected to achieve $1 trillion in sales by next year, statins aren't reducing the so-called 'bad' LDL cholesterol to healthy levels in 50 per cent of patients, which means they are unwittingly still at risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
Researchers aren't sure why the drugs are working only for half the people. It could be because side effects—such as muscle pains—become so bad that they stop taking them, or it may be down to their genetic make-up that renders the drug ineffective.
The researchers, from Nottingham University in the UK, measured the effectiveness of statins on 165,000 patients. They discovered that half of the patients—84,609 people—did not see a big decline in their LDL cholesterol levels, at least not the 40 per cent reduction the drug is supposed to achieve.
Even after taking the drug every day for two years, many still had similar levels to those before they started the treatment.
Around 35 million Americans currently take a statin—which suggests that at least 17 million of them are still at risk of heart disease but don't know it.