Statins: Doctor's research implies side effects are part of 'nocebo effect'

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Statins: Doctor's research implies side effects are part of 'nocebo effect'

When it comes to helping their patients, many GPs favour statins as they can reduce "bad" cholesterol levels by up to 50 percent. If cholesterol is

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When it comes to helping their patients, many GPs favour statins as they can reduce “bad” cholesterol levels by up to 50 percent. If cholesterol is allowed to build up in the body, blood pressure increases and the risk of having a life-threatening incident increases. The life-saving tool doesn’t work for everybody, as “many patients are not able to take statins because of side effects such as muscle pain, called myalgia,” said PHD fellow at Imperial College London, James Philip Howard. However, his recent research highlights many side effects attributed to statins by his study participants were also experienced when taking dummy pills.

“Twenty-four patients, on 71 occasions, had symptoms so severe they had to stop taking their tablets temporarily.

“However, this occurred just as frequently when patients took a placebo as when they took a statin.”

Dr Howard proposed these side effects were mostly caused by the “nocebo effect”.

This is when people experience side effects from statins, for example, because of their negative association with the medicine.

The psychological discomfort created has little, if anything, to do with the actual pharmacological effect of the drug.

Dr Howard emphasised: “Patients should be taken seriously when they report side effects, because they are genuinely suffering.”

As a co-author of the study, Howard and his colleagues suggest that patients should be informed of the nocebo effect when prescribed statins.

He added that “some of the side effects could also be from the typical aches and pains of getting older”.

Dr Howard concluded: “Our findings are significant because they are further evidence that side effects from statins are minimal.

“These drugs play a significant role in keeping patients who are at risk of cardiovascular disease healthy.”

Previous research suggests that statins can reduce the risk of a heart attack, stroke, and even death by up to 35 percent.

The study was funded by the British Heart Foundation and is published in the New England Journal of Medicine.



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