Many Baby Boomers are prescribed statins as a way of protecting against heart disease and stroke, with numerous studies claiming they could also be beneficial in treating Alzheimer’s disease and even cancer. However, new research has cast doubt on the effectiveness of the drug in protecting against non-cardiovascular events.
The latest research, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine Journal by researchers at Monash University and the University of Medicine, reviewed the benefits of the cholesterol-lowering drug and found there is little convincing evidence to show that statins are useful outside of preventing heart disease. While many health professionals around the world are pushing for wider use of statins to treat an array of health problems, authors of the study say the current recommendations for using statins should remain unchanged.
It’s the latest in a series of conflicting studies about the effectiveness of statins, with many in the medical community unable to agree on how useful the drug is. While some continue to hail it a “miracle drug”, others, including the authors of the latest research, cast doubt in the drug’s effectiveness outside of treating heart disease.
Researchers analysed 256 studies that investigated the effectiveness of statins in 279 non-cardiovascular conditions. While authors agreed the medication can prevent deaths from kidney disease, they noted this is existing evidence and not new information. They also found there is no clear evidence that statins improve kidney function.
The evidence found stains could help slow cancer progression, but that further investigation is needed to prove the effectiveness of this. It also said evidence is lacking around the effectiveness of statins when it comes to preventing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), while it couldn’t be determined if statins had a positive or negative impact on people living with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Because of a lack of evidence, researchers said guidelines around statin use should not change. The results will no doubt cause further confusion to those who use statins.
Last month, research published in the Expert Review of Clinical Pharmacology Journal claimed statins didn’t protect against heart disease. The study concluded there is no evidence to link low-density lipoprotein, otherwise known as ‘bad cholesterol’, to heart disease. As such, they wrote that statins may be ineffective in protecting people against cardiovascular events.
Of course, that study again contradicted previous information about statins. Findings published earlier this year in the Journal of the American Association found that statins actually do save lives, particularly in those living with higher levels of bad cholesterol. In fact, others said doctors should treat patients with high levels of bad cholesterol more aggressively with statins and that patients should feel safe using them.
Other research, such as that published in the British Medical Journal, has seen researchers recommending that statins shouldn’t be used by healthy older people as a way of preventing heart disease and stroke without a diabetes diagnosis. That study said widespread use among old and very old patients wasn’t recommended, but that statins could be beneficial for people aged between 75-84 with a type 2 diabetes diagnosis.
With so much conflicting information around, it’s best to always discuss the potential side effects and effectiveness of statins with your health professional.