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27 Nov 2022, Edition - 2693, Sunday

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Health Matters

Cholesterol-Lowering Statin Drugs Do Not Cause Muscle Pain, Says Study



The use of statins drugs to treat cholesterol is quite debatable. They are known to cause many side effects like headache, constipation, bloating, difficulty in sleeping, drowsiness, pain and muscle fatigue. But a new study, published in the Journal BMJ Open claims that the negative effects of these drugs may have been overstated and some of the most common side effects of taking them is not due to the medication but rather the person’s negative beliefs. Researchers at the Imperial College London call this the nocebo effect.

Statins are a class of drugs that are used to lower the levels of cholesterol in the blood which can help in preventing the risk of heart attack and stroke considerably. They work by blocking the functions of the liver enzyme that produces cholesterol in our body. Excess cholesterol can cause blockages and build-up of plaque in the arteries which can obstruct the flow of blood to the heart.

Muscle pain, fatigue and tender are the most common side effects of taking statins regularly and the researchers blame this on the ‘Nocebo Effect’ which is a physiological phenomena where the patients suffer the side effects because they expect to. This is the opposite of the popular ‘Placebo Effect’ which is often talked about in various studies where the participants seem to show improvement by taking a dummy drug or a dummy diet which may not be the real thing.

To prove their point, they gathered data from about 10,000 people in Britain, Ireland and Scandinavia between 1998 and 2004 that shows that patients who did not know they were given a statin in a drug trial did not report significantly more muscle complaints. The study concludes that while the medication does come with a risk of diabetes, muscle pain and weakness remain contentious and the benefits of taking the drugs outweigh its risks.

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