The findings echo those in a study last month that had found the drugs are ineffective in 50 per cent of patients.
In the new study, the drugs failed to reduce LDL cholesterol to safe levels in most at-risk patients, and 51 per cent of those who took the drugs as prescribed, while 33 per cent of the 86,000 patients monitored didn't see their LDL levels fall.
Statins are the first-line therapy for people with raised levels of LDL cholesterol—but they're not working, say the researchers from the University of North Carolina. They analysed the health records of all heart patients taking statins in the state of Indiana.
Around 1,173 new cases of heart disease could be prevented if the statins did their job properly, the researchers reckon.
Surprisingly, the research was paid for by Merck, the drug giant that makes the statin blockbuster Zocor. Most company-funded trials come up with results that support the drug—so does Merck have something waiting in the wings following the failure of its breakthrough drug, anacetrapib, heralded as a new way of reducing cholesterol?