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New Study Question High Dosage Statin Use - Side Effect Risk May Outweigh Benefits - High Cholesterol - British Medical Journal Article 

June 3rd 2006

New Study Question High Dosage Statin Use - Side Effect Risk May Outweigh Benefits - High Cholesterol - British Medical Journal Article

Statin Drug Questions

A new study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) questions whether more aggressive treatment of cholesterol is prudent.  By aggressive, they mean therapy to lower low density lipoprotein (LDL or bad cholesterol) cholesterol concentrations to less than 1.81 mmol/l.  The researchers said that the U.S. National Cholesterol Education Program’s new recommendations for cholesterol levels “might therefore put most of the Western world’s adult population on statin therapy.”

The study questions the wisdom of higher doses of statin drugs.  In the treating to new targets (TNT) trial, the US researchers compared a low and high dose of the same statin, and found that not even 80 mg atorvastatin was able to lower mean low density lipoprotein cholesterol below 1.81mmol/l.  The previous research said “Intensive lipid lowering therapy with 80 mg of atorvastatin per day in patients with stable CHD (coronary heart disease) provides significant clinical benefit.”  Evidently they were not worried about the serious side effects (page 1331 BMJ).


The new research suggests that the overall mortality was not reduced because the small number of cardiovascular deaths in the 80mg atorvastatin group was offset by increased deaths from other causes leaving a benefit of 5% fewer non-fatal cardiovascular events.  There was “deficient information” about the serious side effects.  Some of these side effects could result in death.

This new research from Europe suggests that increasing the dosage of statin drugs (sometimes more than 8 times higher than the dosages used today), would result in significantly more adverse side effects from the drugs.  This may outweigh any benefits seen by lowering the heart disease risk. 


Incredibly, statin use can increase the risk of heart failure.  Other problems associated with the drugs include muscle and liver problems, mental and neurological symptoms, and cancer.

More research is needed to determine overall mortality rates associated with higher dosages.  But until those studies are done, these researchers question the idea of giving many more people statin drugs.  Study Authors Uffe Ravnskov, Paul J Rosch, Morley C Sutter, Mark C Houston

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