Statins – A Patient’s Perspective

The following blog was delivered as a short contribution to a group of Londoners at a regional meeting with an average age around fifty – plus myself at over eighty. Interestingly, it transpired four of us were suffering (or had suffered) with this problem. Indeed, one of the younger group members had given up taking statins due to the severe risk to her future health.

I believe this is an example of the misuse of published scientific research published out of context to attract readers. This is extremely unhelpful when put before a public already confused by conflicting advice. Other examples include the effect of sugars, fats, meats and alternative medicine whilst taking statins, as well the regularity of testing and screening, in which the UK lags far behind other countries.

Statins are medicines prescribed for conditions relating to the heart and the circulatory system. Their necessity varies – according to what one reads in the media – from “necessary for all, particularly men over fifty-five” to “of no use whatsoever”.

My consultant, who I have considerable reason to trust, has no doubt that senior cardiac opinion is unanimous in stating that statins are – in my case – completely necessary.

The problem is that statins frequently have unpleasant side effects. In my case, recurrent periods of pain, long periods of discomfort and a never ending feeling of fatigue – the first two making sleeping very difficult.

Unfortunately, what one reads in the media is highly inaccurate and frequently misleading, giving advice to us patients which is quite useless in practice!

The type of statin prescribed varies between each doctor

The reality is there is a choice of statins available depending on the circumstances and the individual. The required dosage can also be a matter of debate as the acceptable level of cholesterol does seem to vary between doctors.

The choice of which statin is, of course, up to one’s doctor and can depend on the cost and (one would guess) on the persuasiveness of their pharmaceutical salesman. Such choices are often influenced by the fact that GPs are under continual cost pressure from the NHS too.

Very few fellow patients I have talked to are aware that there are alternative drugs to the one they are on.

I have also found that if a consultant gives the prescription, the GP nearly always accepts it without question. So this could be the escape route if you are in real difficulty. Consultants also appear to have more time to give to a patient.

Yet the end to my tale is a happy one so far. My statin has been changed, back to the one I was happily on for many years with a reduced dosage and my quality of life enormously improved. I am however still awaiting the next blood test to see if my cholesterol level is OK. If problems persist, my consultant is willing to keep on trying so that I can continue to have an acceptable quality of life.


David Shalit

David Shalit is the former chair and vice-chair of Positive Ageing in London (PAiL) and a former Age UK London board member. In 2016 he was awarded an MBE “for services to the City of London Corporation and voluntary service to older people in London”.

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