Statin medications are frequently prescribed to lower cholesterol levels, but a new study suggests that many people who get prescriptions for these drugs won’t really benefit from them. Research has shown that medicines like atorvastatin and simvastatin can reduce the chance of a repeat heart attack. It is not clear, though, that they prevent initial heart attacks in otherwise healthy people who simply have high cholesterol. Nonetheless, it seems that many people taking statins are in that category.
Researchers at the University of Michigan sent surveys to doctors who see patients with high cholesterol. Family practice doctors, cardiologists and internists answered questions about hypothetical patients without heart disease in the survey. Nearly three fourths of these physicians said they would prescribe a statin despite the test patients’ low risk of heart disease. The investigators conclude that doctors may be too focused on LDL cholesterol numbers and not on patients’ overall cardiovascular risks when prescribing statin-type drugs.
We have more information about controlling cholesterol without drugs, as well as the benefits and risks of a variety of cholesterol-lowering medications in our Guide to Cholesterol Control and Heart Health. It is one of our most popular guides.
If statin medications caused no side effects, we would worry less about them being prescribed for people who don’t need them. But many people find that statins affect their muscles, their memory or their sex life and reduce their quality of life.