PARIS, April 16 – Millions of patients around the world taking statins to lower the risk of heart disease fail to achieve the recommended levels of cholesterol reduction after two years of treatment, new research said yesterday.
Statins – A class of drugs designed to reduce cholesterol associated with heart disease and stroke – is one of the most commonly prescribed drugs in the United States and the United Kingdom.
The cholesterol-lowering industry is worth billions of dollars but guidelines for who is to take statins are often unclear.
A group of researchers in the UK have reviewed the public health care of 165,000 patients who took the drug and found that fewer than one in two reached the recommended "healthy" 40 percent cholesterol reduction within two years.
"Statins work and are effective, but some attempts have highlighted that there have been variations in response among some patients," says Ralph Kwame Akyea, Research Ass
"But we have shown that there are some people who do not reach this (safe cholesterol level) and the reduction of risk is lower, ”he told AFP.  Akyea's study, published in the journal Heart found that on average people began taking statins aged 62 years. There were almost 23,000 cases of cardiovascular disease within six years of statin treatment among patients.
Overall, 51 percent of patients had an insufficient reduction in cholesterol even when they took the drugs.
Akyea stressed that the study – the largest of its kind so far – could not determine why some patients responded positively to statins while others did not.
"Some people would probably stop taking the medicine, maybe they had side effects," he said.
"It can also be a role of genetic variation. Not everyone responds to the medicine and there are currently studies looking at the genetics of drug reaction."
Millions more patients are expected
New Changes to prescribed guidelines are set to see statins given to more than 55 million people in the United States and 12 million people in the UK over the next few years.
Akyea and his team suggested that better guidance and monitoring were necessary to ensure that the given statins took the right doses for the prescribed time.
Writing in a linked editorial, Marcio Bittencourt, from the Sao Paulo University Hospital, said that the study's results were "clearly alarming".
However, he pointed out that statins had been shown to significantly reduce the risk of heart attacks and stroke in a large percentage of risk patients.
"Patients and society should be educated on the scientific evidence documenting the benefits of lipid lowering therapy," Bittencourt said.
"Anti-statin propaganda based on pseudoscience should be heavily beaten." – AFP