Statins are a group of drugs commonly used to combat cholesterol levels. Here in the U.K., cardiovascular disease (CVD), otherwise known as ‘heart disease’, is a common cause of death. There are several types of CVD including coronary heart disease, angina and heart attacks. All can occur due to blood flow being restricted from getting to the heart.
Statins help to lower cholesterol, and as with any drug, it comes with its own side-effects including upset stomach; headaches; nausea; muscle aches and pains; and pins and needles. However, researchers suggested that side-effects from statins may not be real. As such, their theory was put to the test…
There are also more serious side-effects linked with statins. The British Heart Foundation reported that, statistically, one in 10,000 may experience a “potentially dangerous side effect” like kidney failure. But, although widely accepted that most drugs have side-effects, researchers are not so sure if the ones linked with statins are actually as common as first thought.
Study reviews statins side-effects
A study, conducted by a number of medical experts on behalf of interested investigators, tested 10,000 people to find out if statin side-effects are real. These 10,000 people were given either atorvastatin or a placebo (harmless pill with no effect) at random. Those taking statins reported more “renal and urinary” side effects than the ones taking the placebo, but there were reportedly no significant differences between the two groups.
To see if it was in their minds, participant patients were then told if they had been taking the real thing or a placebo. 6,409 patients continued to take the drug for the next three years whilst the researchers monitored them. 3,490 patients didn’t take anything and were also monitored.
The group that continued to take the drug knowingly had a much higher report rate of side-effects including muscle pain and weakness. Dr. Peter Sever who headed the study said:
“…when patients on statins report muscle pain, the pain is real, but it may have little to do with the drug itself.”
This is a very common, as Dr Sever explains:
“…it’s a real phenomenon that if you’re aware of a problem with a drug, you’re more likely to complain about it.”
A placebo effect?
Even though we have come a long way in medical breakthroughs in the past few centuries, the mind is still relatively difficult to monitor and understand, especially in terms of the effect of things on our bodies. The placebo effect is famous for having the ability to improve a person’s condition purely because they believe they’re taking an effective course of treatment.
According to this statins study, it seems the reverse is similarly effective in making people feel worse because they’re aware of the problems associated with a drug and the expectations of side-effects.
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