Recent research conducted at Oxford University has shown that patients without heart disease may benefit from statin therapy.

The authors analysed data from just over 120,000 patients, with an average age of 61. For every 10,000 patients taking a statin, 36 adverse events were prevented, these being 19 fewer heart attacks, nine fewer strokes, and eigh fewer deaths from heart disease. For the same number of patients, 41 more side effects were noted; 15 reports of muscle pain, 12 kidney complaints, and 14 eye conditions. From this they concluded that potential harms were small, and benefits outweighed risks.

The statin debate is not new, having rumbled on for decades. Statins are one of the most prescribed medications worldwide. Advocates for their use have gone as far as to suggest a blanket application for everyone over 50. Those against bemoan that ageing has become seen as a medical condition rather than a normal phenomenon, as well as highlighting the multiple complaints from patients prescribed statins. There is a slightly increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes with the drugs. Studies have argued both ways as to whether they increase the risk of or prevent cognitive decline and dementia.

Statins lower the level of LDL or “bad cholesterol” and are offered in two distinct scenarios. When a person has survived a cardiovascular event. The provision of statins as primary prevention is for those individuals who have not had an event, but whose risk profile puts them at greater risk. Previously statin therapy was advised if your risk of an event in the next ten years, known as the “Q-risk” was 20 per cent or more. This advice has now been modified, with the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) opining that a low dose statin should be offered in addition to lifestyle modification, or where such measures are either inappropriate or have proved ineffective for anyone with a risk of 10 per cent or more.

The side effects caused by statins, or at least felt to be caused by statins, are wide ranging, and such that several abandon them or else persevere with great disability and pain.

Convincing everyone to take something “just in case” doesn’t seem like a rational approach.

Of importance is getting your cholesterol checked routinely for those 40 or over, or at a younger age in persons with a strong family history of cardiovascular disease (CVD).