Should all over 50s be taking statins?

the debate was reignited by Professor Collins at the European Cardiology Congress in Munich. He reported that evidence from 130,000 patients taking statins in trials show they are safe and consequently they should be given to all over-50s whether they have heart disease or not.

Yet is view is not endorsed by drug safety watchdogs here who have insisted on flagging up relatively minor side effects which are putting patients off the drugs. These include memory loss, depression, sexual difficulties and depression. According to Prof Collins, trial data shows only one significant side effect, myopathy or muscle pain, which affects one in 10,000 patients.

He said: ‘We need to look properly at the safety of statins. The reality is that these drugs are remarkably safe, but the problem is that high risk patients are getting the message that these drugs have side effects.’

Prof Collins, 57, went to his GP a fortnight ago to ask about taking statins despite a relatively low cholesterol level, and was dismayed to learn she could not get high risk patients to take them because of fears about side effects. Research earlier this year co-ordinated by the Clinical Trial Service Unit Oxford University, where Prof Collins is co-director, reviewed findings from 27 statin trials involving 175,000 people, some of whom were at low risk of heart problems.

Statins cut the risk of heart attacks, strokes and operations to unblock arteries by one third or more and the benefits were gained no matter what level of cholesterol patients started out with. Healthier people who were given statins also had lower overall death rates than those who were given a placebo.