Most patients who stop taking a statin are not intolerant, suggests study

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: (Published 10 April 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f2236
  1. Lilian Anekwe
  1. 1BMJ Evidence Centre

Nine of 10 patients who stop taking a statin because of side effects were able to restart it or take a different drug from the group and stick with it for at least 12 months, a study has found.

Researchers from Beijing and Boston studied the medical records of 108 000 people treated at two hospitals in the United States to find out how often people stop taking statins because of side effects and whether they are able to take them in the future.1 The patients were given a prescription for a statin between January 2000 and December 2008.

The researchers found that about half of people stopped taking a statin (57 292), most commonly (21%) because it was considered no longer necessary.

Altogether, 18 778 (17%) patients in the study had a side effect related to statins recorded on their medical records, usually myalgia and myopathy.

Of patients who had side effects, 11 124 (59%) had the statin discontinued at least temporarily, and 6579 (59%) were given the same or a different statin over the next 12 months. Most (92%) of these patients continued taking the drug for at least another 12 months. Four of 10 patients were given the same statin they were originally prescribed, a third of them at the same or a higher dose.

The researchers said that most patients who reported side effects to statins can tolerate them long term, suggesting that the problems they had could have been unrelated to the drug or were specific to the statin and not the whole class of drugs.

Commenting on the study in an editorial, Scott Grundy, from the Centre for Human Nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, said that the study showed it was unlikely that most of those people who stopped taking their statin had a “true statin intolerance.”2

He said that “better strategies to promote statin adherences are essential to realizing” the potential of this group of drugs to reduce the prevalence of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.


Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f2236


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