Statins are a ‘modern effective therapy’ – and ‘not to blame for muscle aches and pains

People complaining of muscle aches and pains while taking statins became a bit of a “thing” but I always doubted it was due to the drugs themselves.

So many people believed there was a link that a new word, “nocebo”, was coined to describe where people got a side effect after reading about it.

But a new study from Oxford ­University now shows definitively that statin therapies aren’t the cause of muscle pain in more than 90% of those who experience symptoms.

The study demonstrated that muscle pain or weakness is common in adults, regardless of whether they take a statin or not.

Fourteen out of 15 reported cases weren’t due to statin therapy, and those cases where they were to blame occurred mainly within the first year of treatment.

Analysing 23 large-scale studies from the Cholesterol Treatment ­Trialists’ Collaboration, covering almost 155,000 people, researchers assessed the effect of statin treatments on the frequency of muscle symptoms across many different types of patient.

They found muscle symptoms such as pain or weakness were common, even in those allocated a placebo (or dummy) tablet. In 19 trials of statin therapy versus placebo, similar numbers of people reported such symptoms – 16,835 in the statin group and 16,446 in the placebo group.

Statins are a modern effective therapy: for every 1,000 people taking a moderate intensity statin, the ­treatment typically prevents 50 major vascular events (such as heart attacks and strokes) in those with pre-existing vascular disease, and 25 major vascular events if used for prevention. Professor Colin Baigent of Oxford University and joint lead author of the study, says: “Our research shows that, for most people taking a statin, any muscle-related symptoms they experience will not be due to the statin itself.”

For every 1,000 people taking a moderate intensity statin, the treatment would cause only 11 (generally mild) episodes of muscle pain.

Dr Christina Reith, a joint lead author of the study, says: “We hope these results will help doctors and patients to make informed decisions about whether to start or remain on statin therapy and that information provided to doctors and patients will be reviewed in light of our study results.”

Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, medical director at the British Heart Foundation, which co-funded the study, said: “It reinforces the evidence that statins are safe, which should provide reassurance to the many people taking, or considering taking, these lifesaving drugs that have been proven to protect against heart attacks and strokes.”