Islamabad - A new report suggests people are actually at greater risk of a heart attack if they take statins.

Statins, which are designed to help protect people from heart failure, can actually increase the risk of a heart attack according to a new study.

Researchers say the drugs, which are taken by around 12 million patients in the UK, are more likely to cause calcium deposits in the arteries, which can lead to a heart attack. Statins were developed to lower cholesterol, but they also block a molecule needed to produce vitamin K, which prevents calcification of the arteries. The author of the report says there is ‘no evidence to support people taking statins’, which opponents say also cause other health issues including skeletal weakness and muscle pain.

Professor Harumi Okuyama, who teaches at Nagoya City University Japan, said: ‘We have collected a wealth of information on cholesterol and statins from many published papers and find overwhelming evidence that these drugs accelerate hardening of the arteries and can cause, or worsen, heart failure.’ Similarly, Dr Peter Langsjoen, a heart specialist based in Texas who is co-author of the study, said: ‘These drugs should never have been approved for use. The long-term effects are devastating.’

However, there is plenty of support for statins within the medical profession and the drugs are considered to generally lower cholesterol levels by 25 to 35 per cent. The medications Lipitor, Crestor, Zocor and other statins have been the standard treatment for lowering cholesterol for more than 20 years.   Those pills work by curbing the production of cholesterol in the liver.

Statins have also long been recommended for people who already have heart disease and have been credited with helping to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. 

A spokesman for MHRA, the Government drug regulator, said: ‘The benefits of statins are well established and are considered to outweigh the risk of side effects in the majority of patients.’

Last year, NHS watchdog NICE encouraged GPs to prescribe the cholesterol-busting drugs to anyone with a 10 per cent chance of having a heart attack. That change has resulted in 17million adults - nearly all people over the age of 40 - now being eligible to take the drugs. 

Statins are thought to help reduce cholesterol by 25 to 35 per cent, but a new report suggests the risks of taking them are greater than the benefits and could actually accelerate hardening of the arteries Professor Gillian Leng, deputy chief executive at NICE, said: ‘Heart attacks and strokes are the biggest killers in England and Wales – claiming one in three of us and leaving others with life-changing disabilities.  ‘NICE guidance is clear - doctors and patients should talk about ways to reduce their risk of heart attack or stroke – and the 10 per cent risk threshold is a marker for when patients should take action. 

‘Patients should firstly think about stopping smoking, drinking less alcohol and changing their diet and exercise; then they should consider taking statins if they are appropriate.’

Motor control exercise may help

lower back pain

Targeting exercises to muscles that support and control the spine may help to reduce pain and disability caused by lower back pain, says research. Lower back pain (LBP) is one of the most common health conditions globally, incurring substantial health and economic costs due to disability, general ill health and lost days at work. Despite its high prevalence, the source of pain is often unclear, with the result that it is often described as “non-specific LBP.”

Previous studies have suggested that LBP involves impairments in the control of the deep trunk muscles. These muscles are responsible for maintaining the coordination and stability of the spine. Motor control exercise (MCE) was developed with the aim of restoring the coordination, control and capacity of the trunk muscles that support the spine. It is widely prescribed for people with LBP.

MCE involves training the isolated contraction of deep trunk muscles, with further integration of these muscles into more complex static, dynamic and functional tasks. It should also improve coordination and optimal control of the global trunk muscles. Patients are initially guided by a therapist to practice normal use of the muscles through simple tasks; as their skill increases, more complex exercises are set, including the functional tasks needed to perform work and leisure activities.

The researchers describe this as “low to moderate quality evidence that motor control exercise (MCE) is more effective than a minimal intervention for chronic low back pain.”

When results were compared for pain and disability between MCE and other types of exercise at intervals between 3-12 months, the difference was not considered clinically significant.

Despite the low quality of evidence, it is thought that MCE might be slightly more effective than exercise plus electrophysical agents (EPA) for pain, disability, global impression of recovery and physical quality of life in the short and intermediate term.

No clinically important difference was observed between MCE and manual therapy for any of the outcomes investigated.

The researchers conclude that despite minimal evidence of MCE being better than other forms of exercise, it appears to be a safe form of exercise.