Most of the side effects commonly condemned by cholesterol-lowering statins may actually be the product of the patient’s imagination, a new UK study argues.
This finding follows a study of 60 patients who were taking statins but discontinued due to reported muscle pain, malaise, or joint pain.
However, after giving the patient an unmarked 8-month supply of statins and dummy pills (4 bottles each), researchers took the actual drug, even when the patient was taking the dummy. When 90% of the reported symptoms were found to tolerate, or placebo, pills.
“Cardiovascular disease is the world’s largest killer, and statins are one of the best drugs we have to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke,” explained research author James Howard. “But one of the problems with statins is that patients are very poorly tolerated. In some studies, up to 50% of people discontinue statins within two years of starting statins. I know. ”
“In an older study of statins, Howard found that when half of the patients took statins and half of them took placebo, the side effects were about the same in both groups. This is statins. It didn’t make sense if the side effects of were so common .. “
“Although statins cause side effects, most of these symptoms appear to be caused by the act of taking the tablets, not the actual statins,” he said in a new study.
Howard is a clinical researcher at Imperial College London and a cardiologist at the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust in London. He and his colleagues announced their findings to the New England Journal of Medicine this week. This study is not funded by the pharmaceutical industry.
The study participants were 37 to 79 years old, and at some point between June 2016 and March 2019, all stopped taking statins.
Each patient was given 4 statins and 4 placebos. Each contains tablets of the same appearance and are taken in random order over 8 months. After that, the patient did nothing for another 4 months.
A total of 49 patients completed the one-year study and recorded symptoms throughout the study. RESULTS: When taking placebo, 90% of actual statin-related symptoms persisted. Symptom intensity was about as bad as taking statins while taking placebo, but dropped by half without taking any tablets.
“I found that the patient felt very good without taking the pills, but I felt much sick when I took statins, but also when I took placebo,” Howard said. I felt sick. In fact, 90% of people who took statins were sick. “
The team said the finding was an example of a “nosebo effect” in which patients experience negative side effects despite being treated quackly. However, as a measure of how devastating the experience of side effects is, the team found that 24 out of 49 patients had tablets for at least one month, whether real or perceived. I noticed that I stopped taking it temporarily and stopped it a total of 71 times. Of the 71 outages, 31 occurred while taking placebo and 40 occurred while taking statins.
Still, Howard found that this study does not suggest that all statin side effects can be imagined. “Even in rare cases, all drugs cause some side effects,” he said.
But what can you do for someone whose symptoms are mostly imagined? Howard said simply admitting the problem would be very helpful.
According to the study, “If you sit with the patient and explain the nosebo effect, 50% of the patients can be returned to these drugs and the patients can continue to take them,” he said. .. Howard added that the communication itself “made a difference.”
The issue of statin resistance is a real concern, said Dr. Greg Fonarow. He is the interim chief of the Department of Cardiology and director of the Ahmanson-UCLA Cardiomyopathy Center at the University of California, Los Angeles.
“Millions of adult men and women who will benefit from statin therapy are not taking this very low-cost / high-value therapy because of potential side effects or concerns about intolerance.” Phonaro said. “This is a very frequent concern and unfortunately contributes to cardiovascular events and strokes that could have been prevented.”
However, the latest findings suggest that it is possible to distinguish between those who are experiencing true side effects and those who are not. And it can help “reassure patients about the safety and tolerability of statins,” Phonaro added.
For more information
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more information about statins.
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Studies suggest that the side effects of statins may be “in the head.”
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