Statins Often Tolerated on the Second Try

If you stopped taking a drug because of the side effects, would you try it again?

There is much written about the side effects of statins. Non-life threatening side effects can include: muscle aches, fatigue, memory loss, confusion, male sexual dysfunction, headache, difficulty sleeping dizziness and more. There are a few, rare life threatening long-term effects. If there wasn’t such an overwhelming body of evidence supporting statins’ efficacy in lowering (bad) LDL cholesterol, it would be easy to walk away from the category.

About half of those who are prescribed statins do walk away. More than 17% stop using statins specifically because of side effects. Surprisingly, many of those same people tried statins a second time and successfully tolerate them.

This phenomena was the subject of a retrospective study at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and published in the April issue of Annals of Internal Medicine.  The study covered a 9-year period (starting in 2000) and more than 100,000 US adults who were prescribed statins. More than half of those adults discontinued taking statins. 17.5% of the statin stoppers specifically blamed side effects. More than half of those who stopped statins gave them a second try and, of that group, 90% could then tolerate them.

Filtering all the math down, of just over 100,000 patients, 18,780 stopped taking statins because of side effects. Of that group, 6,579 tried statins again, and 90% were still using statins a year later.

Why were the statins tolerated better the second time? Was the patient better prepared mentally for the effects? Was the effect lessened the longer the statin was taken? Another reason? Not reported in this study.


Suzanne B. Robotti

Suzanne Robotti founded MedShadow Foundation in 2012. Learn more about Su and her mission.

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