'For a drug that costs the NHS as little as £15 per patient per year, statins certainly pack a punch. The cholesterol-lowering tablets can reduce the chances of a heart attack by a third and a stroke by a quarter, which is a lifeline for those who have already suffered such a devastating event and many more who just want to avoid one.
So headlines last week declaring that statins ‘do not work’ in half of patients will have made intriguing reading – for the eight million Britons taking them, and for anyone else considering doing so.
UK investigators looked at levels of LDL – the compound that carries cholesterol around the body – in 165,411 patients who had been prescribed the drug. Raised LDL-cholesterol is one of the big risk factors for heart disease, alongside genetics, high blood pressure, blood-sugar levels, smoking and numerous other lifestyle factors.
After two years, half of the patients – 84,609 in total – still had higher-than-desired cholesterol levels. The Nottingham University researchers admitted they weren’t sure why. Indeed, no conclusion could be drawn from the study other than the plain facts above.
So what is going on?
Firstly, it should be pointed out that statins unequivocally do lower LDL-cholesterol – consistently and significantly.
Large clinical trials involving hundreds of thousands of patients have shown that this is the case. So other factors must be at play in causing what scientists call ‘a sub-optimal response’.
Here, with the help of British heart-health specialists, we give the real reasons the statins don’t have the desired effect in some patients.'
Read more: The real reasons statins don't work for half of patients: How an incorrect dose or taking your pills 'the wrong way' could reduce their effectiveness
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