Editor’s note: This is not health advice, and we strongly recommend contacting your health professional before ceasing any medications.
Health experts are warning people who take statins are more likely to suffer from hardening of the arteries, a leading cause of heart problems.
The findings, published in Expert Review of Clinical Pharmacology, are adding to the debate surrounding the drugs, which are given to around one in four adults in Australia.
There has been significant discussion around the drug’s effectiveness, and the ABC reports more than 60,000 Australians cut back on or stopped taking cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins after a program questioning their effectiveness aired on Catalyst in October 2013.
Despite the evidence, many peak health bodies still say the cholesterol-lowing medication is beneficial and not detrimental to our health.
Professor Harumi Okuyama, whose team studied a series of more than 20 major research papers on the drugs, says they could cause heart disease.
Dr Okuyama, of Nagoya City University, Japan, said: “We have collected a wealth of information on cholesterol and statins from many published papers and find overwhelming evidence that these drugs accelerate hardening of the arteries and can cause, or worsen, heart failure. I cannot find any evidence to support people taking statins and patients who are on them should stop”, reports Express.
The researchers say the hypothesis that statins protect the heart by lowering cholesterol is flawed and that high cholesterol is not necessarily linked to heart disease.
They also found statins have a negative effect on vital body processes linked to heart health.
Researchers found those who take the drugs were more likely to have calcium deposits in their arteries than those who did not – statins block a molecule needed for the body to produce vitamin K, which prevents calcification of the arteries.
Dr Okuyama’s team looked at studies before and after 2004 and found, “The epidemic of heart failure and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) that plagues the modern world may paradoxically be aggravated by the pervasive use of statin drugs. We propose that current statin treatment guidelines be critically re-evaluated”.
Currently, there doesn’t seem to be a plan to investigate these claims further in Australia, and statins are still being prescribed in droves.