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Statins side effects: ‘Memory problems’ reported – but some studies find no evidence

This Morning: Dr Chris reveals grapefruit can affect statins

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The Mayo Clinic says some people have reported memory loss and thinking problems after using statins. It notes: “But a number of studies haven’t been able to find any evidence to prove that statins actually cause these difficulties. Other studies suggest that statins may help prevent these issues.” The NHS says memory problems are an uncommon side effect.

The Mayo Clinic notes that the FDA warns on statin labels that some people have developed memory loss or confusion while taking statins.

It states: “These side effects reverse once you stop taking the medication. There is limited evidence to prove a cause-effect relationship, but talk to your doctor if you experience memory loss or confusion while taking statins.

“There has also been evidence that statins may help with brain function — in people with dementia, for example.

“This is still being studied. Don’t stop taking your statin medication before talking to your doctor.”

The NHS says like all medicines, statins can cause side effects. Nonetheless, it says most people tolerate them well and do not have any problems.

“You should discuss the benefits and risks of taking statins with your doctor before you start taking the medicine,” it states.

The health body says common side effects include headache, dizziness, feeling sick, feeling unusually tired or physically weak, digestive system problems, muscle pain, sleep problems and low blood platelet count.

It adds that uncommon side effects include being sick, hair loss, pins and needles, inflammation of the liver, inflammation of the pancreas, and sexual problems or skin issues.

The health body notes statins can occasionally cause muscle inflammation and damage.

“Speak to your doctor if you have muscle pain, tenderness or weakness that cannot be explained – for example, pain that is not caused by physical work.”

The Mayo Clinic also says it is possible your blood sugar (blood glucose) level may increase when you take a statin, which may lead to developing type 2 diabetes.

The NHS says that there are five types of statin available on prescription in the UK. They include atorvastatin, fluvastatin pravastatin, rosuvastatin and simvastatin.

The NHS recommends maintaining cholesterol levels below 5mmol/L. In the UK, however, three out of five adults have a total cholesterol of 5mmol/L or above, and the average cholesterol level is about 5.7mmol/L, which can be a risk factor in heart disease.

The health body notes that a review of scientific studies into the effectiveness of statins found around one in every 50 people who take the medicine for five years will avoid a serious event, such as a heart attack or stroke, as a result.

It is thought that more than seven million Britons take these drugs. You may need to take statins if you’ve had a heart attack or stroke, in order to reduce your risk of another cardiac event.

You usually have to continue taking statins for life because if you stop taking them, your cholesterol will return to a high level within a few weeks.

The Yellow Card Scheme allows you to report suspected side effects from any type of medicine you’re taking.

It is run by a medicines safety watchdog called the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

The purpose of the scheme is to provide an early warning that the safety of a medicine or a medical device may require further investigation.

Side effects reported on Yellow Cards are evaluated, together with additional sources of information such as clinical trial data.

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