The Borneo Post (Sabah)

Statins don’t cause muscle pain after all — Study


PARIS: Cholestero­l-lowering statins do not in fact cause muscle pain, despite a longstandi­ng reputation that has discourage­d many from taking the life-saving medication, researcher­s reported Thursday.

Statins are prescribed to prevent heart attack or stroke, but fears that they cause muscle symptoms have caused patients to abandon their treatment, potentiall­y exposing them to greater risk of cardiovasc­ular problems. The issue remains contentiou­s, with multiple studies and official health services giving sometimes confusing advice.

In the latest paper on the topic, researcher­s studied some 200 people across England and Wales who had recently stopped taking their medication because of muscle symptoms.

Each person was randomly assigned to six, two-month treatment periods, when they were either given statins or a placebo. Neither the patient, nor their doctor were told which tablet they were receiving at any given time.

Participan­ts rated muscle symptoms – pain, weakness, tenderness, stiffness, or cramp – on a scale of one to 10 at the end of each treatment period.

The study, published in the BMJ journal, combined the results from all the patients and found that there was no overall difference in muscle symptom scores between the statin and placebo periods.

While 18 people – or nine per cent of participan­ts – pulled out from the research because of intolerabl­e muscle symptoms while they were taking statins, 13 (7 per cent) stopped participat­ing for the same reason during a placebo period.

Two-thirds of the patients who completed the trial reported restarting long-term treatment with statins, the study said. The average age of participan­ts was 69.5 and researcher­s said muscle aches and pains are common among the age group taking statins.

They said people might suffer these effects by chance at the same time as they take statins and mistakenly assume it is the drugs.

While statins do have side effects – and in rare cases severe ones – the BMJ report said there was no clear clinical evidence that they cause muscle problems. However, the researcher­s said they looked at only one type of statin. Meanwhile, Britain’s National Health Service does list muscle pain as among the common side effects of statins.

“Statins can occasional­ly cause muscle inflammati­on (swelling) and damage,” it says on its website. “Speak to your doctor if you have muscle pain, tenderness or weakness that cannot be explained – for example, pain that is not caused by physical work.”

Commenting on the latest research, Tim Chico, professor of cardiovasc­ular medicine at the University of Sheffield, said giving the same patient both statin and placebo could be useful “in real life to help patients understand the cause of their own possible side effects, which could also be applied to medication­s other than statins”.

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