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How Safe Are Statins For MS Patients?

May 22, 2017

Statins are commonly prescribed medicine that help lower harmful levels of LDL cholesterol to lessen the risks of cardiovascular disease. However, uncertainty remains about the safety of statins. The types of statins approved for use in the United States include atorvastatin, fluvastatin, lovastatin, pravastatin, rosuvastatin, simvastatin, and pitavastatin. They all work in a similar way by blocking the enzyme in the liver that produces cholesterol.

Landmark studies have investigated the use of statins in secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease. The Scandinavian Simvastatin Survival Study (4S) studied 4,444 people who previously had a heart attack and high cholesterol. Simvastatin was found to lower total cholesterol by 25% and LDL cholesterol by 35%. The Cholesterol and Recurrent Events (CARE) trial studied 4,159 people with coronary heart disease and average cholesterol levels to examine the effect of lowering LDL levels on the occurrence of coronary events. Results showed that Individuals with pravastatin were 24% less likely to die from cardiovascular disease.
Trials have consistently demonstrated a clear correlation between reducing LDL cholesterol with statins and a decrease in cardiovascular, yet there is still controversy. Guidelines released in 2013 by the American College of Cardiology (ACC) and the American Heart Association (AHA) recommended that statin therapy might be beneficial for specific groups.

They are:

  • People with cardiovascular disease
  • People who have high LDL cholesterol levels of 190 milligrams per deciliter or higher
  • People aged 40 to 75 years with diabetes and LDL levels of 70-189 milligrams per deciliter
  • People aged 40 to 75 years without diabetes, but with LDL cholesterol levels of 70-189 milligrams per deciliter and a predicted 10-year risk of cardiovascular disease of 7.5% or higher

However, experts questioned the 2013 guidelines, arguing that 7.5% threshold seemed too low. Two research teams examined this threshold in 2015 and published their findings in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Read the controversy here.