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Health experts say statins beneficial

Australians taking cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins are being urged to stay on them after US regulators ruled they must carry warnings about a small increased risk of diabetes or memory impairment.


Hundreds of thousands of Australians are believed to be using statins to reduce their risk of heart disease.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the US has announced statins must now carry warnings about the risk of diabetes and memory impairment following studies showing a link with statins in a small number of cases.
Australia's Therapeutic Goods Administration is considering the latest information and may also require similar warnings.
Health professionals and academics in Australia say the benefits of statins far outweigh the small risks identified and people on the drugs should not stop taking them, and consult their doctors if they have concerns.
University of NSW professor of clinical pharmacology Ric Day said the latest identified small risks should not be an invitation to stop taking statins without consulting prescribers.
"I think it would be very bad if people got frightened and stopped the drug without proper consideration of their own risk benefit with someone who can help," he said.
Prof Day said statins were vitally important for people who had suffered a heart attack or stroke or to prevent another one.
"It all gets down to what an individual's risk profile is for cardio-vascular events."
Prof Day said that could be fairly well calculated now based on age, family history, weight, tobacco use, blood pressure and so on.
He said one issue identified by the FDA in the US was raised blood sugar levels in some people using statins so for someone who was diabetic or pre-diabetic that was not good.
But Prof Day said that was usually picked up in routine medical checks.
The other FDA concern related to memory and other brain function loss in a few cases but again this could be reversed by people being taken off statins or having the dosage lowered, he said.
The director of the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, Garry Jennings, said statins clearly benefited many people and had been trialled probably more than any other therapeutic drug around.
He said the link to brain function loss was contentious while the blood sugar increase affected only a minority of users.

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