Confused about statin benefits? New AHA statement has answers

Statins are an effective, low-cost therapy for reducing cardiovascular risk, yet they remain one of the most controversial classes of drugs. A new scientific statement from the American Heart Association (AHA) aims to clear up some of the known and perceived risks of statins by providing clinicians with an evidence-based breakdown of the various adverse effects and concerns linked with statin therapy.

“For the overwhelming majority of patients, statins are very safe and should be recommended to at-risk patients most likely to benefit, especially those with established cardiovascular disease [and] diabetes, and select primary prevention patients with multiple major risk factors,” said Dave Dixon, PharmD, CLS, FNLA, FACC, associate professor and vice-chair for clinical services at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Pharmacy in Richmond.

The statement, which is more than 70 pages and was published in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology in December 2018, draws on 30-plus years of clinical investigation showing that statins exhibit few serious adverse effects. For instance, researchers concluded that:

  • Myopathy, including rhabdomyolysis attributable to statin therapy, occurs in fewer than 0.1% of treated patients.
  • Nonserious muscle symptoms are commonly reported during statin treatment and interfere with treatment compliance, but overall, fewer than 1% of statin-treated patients have muscle symptoms of pharmacological origin.
  • Severe liver toxicity is very rare, reported in approximately 0.001% of patients.
  • Statins modestly increase the risk of newly diagnosed diabetes in clinical trials of up to 5 years’ duration.

For the full article, please visit for the March 2019 issue of Pharmacy Today.