If you have been diagnosed with high cholesterol or a heart problem, your doctor might have recommended the little pills known as statins to stave off further problems. Having been taking the pills religiously, you’ve probably noticed the part of your patient information leaflet that lists muscle pain as a “common” side effect. However, new research, published in the journal Lancet, shares that this type of pain might have a completely different cause.
While statins are generally well-tolerated, they can still cause side effects, just like any medication.
One of the “common” problems triggered by the pills is muscle pain, with health bodies listing this symptom as an official side effect.
But a new landmark study found that the drugs should only be blamed in less than 10 percent cases of pains.
The tell-tale symptom is probably just a natural problem linked to an old age, the research suggests.
Looking at more than 150,000 patients from 23 trials, the meta-analysis challenges the notion that muscle pain is triggered by the cholesterol-lowering drug.
One of the lead researchers Professor Colin Baigent explained that the “common” sign occurs “most likely due to other causes”.
“Statin therapy should continue until other potential causes have been explored,” the expert noted.
Around 27.1 percent of patients on statins reported muscle pain or weakness, compared to 26.6 percent of those who were taking a placebo.
Furthermore, there was no difference between those who took statins and those given the dummy tables after the first year of treatment.
Although the researchers found that doses stronger posed a slightly higher risk of muscle problems, most cases were mild.
Dr Christina Reith, another lead author of the study said: “Our research shows that whilst people on statin therapy may develop muscle symptoms, it is important to note that people not on statins also commonly get such symptoms.
“For people on statins who do develop muscle symptoms, most of the time statins will not be the cause.
Baigent said: “Drug regulators around the world are concerned to keep patients safe.
“And up until now they’ve thought that doing that is best served by having these warnings about the possibility of muscle pain.”
“What we’ve shown is actually that that’s not the best way to serve patients because patients take that information, and the moment they develop muscle pain, they suspect the statin and that leads many of them to stop the statin, which actually puts them in harm’s way.
“And so we’ve got to try and change the balance of that, and work with the regulators to do a better job of communicating the risks.”
Overall, there was a seven percent higher risk of muscle pains on statins compared to a placebo. But this disappeared within 12 months.
Furthermore, strong doses were linked to a slightly higher risk at 11 percent.