Statins are not effective for around half of people taking them, new research has revealed.
The cholesterol-lowering drugs taken by around six million Britons may not work well enough in about half of the patients prescribed them.
According to health regulator NICE within two years of starting on statins cholesterol should be reduced by around 40%, but the study, published in the journal Heart, found that 51% of patients were failing to hit healthy cholesterol targets.
Researchers from Nottingham University analysed 165,000 patients on statins and found that for one in two, the drugs had too little effect on bad cholesterol, which is one of the big risk factors for heart disease.
Those who did not meet the 40% reduction target were 22% more likely to get the disease, while 23,000 developed cardiovascular disease over a six year follow-up period.
Researchers aren’t yet sure why statins appear to help some more than others, but one theory is that patients may not be taking the drugs or being prescribed doses that are too low.
Prof Metin Avkiran, of the British Heart Foundation, said that work needs to be done to find out why some people do not respond to the medication.
“It may be that these people have been prescribed low dose or low potency statins, they are not taking the medication as prescribed, or they are not responding well to the type of statins that they have been prescribed,” he told Mirror.
Experts were keen to highlight the study limitations in that they are unable to prove that patients who do not respond well to statins will necessarily fare worse as a consequence.
Researchers advised that despite the findings patients should not stop taking the drugs without seeking medical advice from their doctor.
Prof Metin Avkiran told BBC: “Statins are an important and proven treatment for lowering cholesterol and reducing the risk of a potentially fatal heart attack or stroke.
“If you have been prescribed statins, you should continue to take them regularly, as prescribed. If you have any concerns you should discuss your medication with your GP. There are now other drugs available to help lower cholesterol levels, and it may be that another type of medication will be an effective addition or alternative for you.”
According to the NHS statins are a group of medicines that can help lower the level of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in the blood.
LDL cholesterol is often referred to as “bad cholesterol”, and statins reduce the production of it inside the liver.
Having a high level of LDL cholesterol is potentially dangerous, as it can lead to a hardening and narrowing of the arteries and cardiovascular disease (CVD).
Figures have revealed that cardiovascular disease kills about 150,000 people in the UK each year.
The statin study results follow further research last month which revealed that drinking just one fizzy drink a day significantly increases your risk of heart disease.
And last year a study by the American Heart Association found that men consuming diets high in meat and dairy could be at a greater risk of heart failure than others.
Researchers followed 2,441 men aged between 42 and 60 each for an average of 22 years and found that men who consumed high-protein diets were at a higher risk of developing heart disease – especially if that protein came from meat and dairy.