Image of different colored pills spilled onto a flat surface

Less than 10% of patients are intolerant to statins, a proportion far lower than previous estimates suggest, according to the world’s largest study of the issue. 

As many as one in two patients stop taking the cholesterol-lowering drugs, reduce their dose or take them irregularly because they believe they cause muscle pain and other side-effects. 

A group of international researchers conducted a meta-analysis of 176 studies with more than 4 million patients worldwide. The aim was to identify the overall prevalence of statin intolerance and the prevalence according to different diagnostic criteria. They also wanted to identify what factors might place people at greater risk of statin intolerance.

They found that the overall prevalence was 9.1%. Prevalence was even less when assessed according to diagnostic criteria from the National Lipid Association, the International Lipid Expert Panel and the European Atherosclerosis Society: 7%, 6.7% and 5.9% respectively.

“These results were not a surprise to me but they were for many other experts,” said Maciej Banach, M.D., Ph.D., of the Medical University of Lodz and the study’s lead author. “They show that in most cases statin intolerance is overestimated and over-diagnosed, and they mean that around 93% of patients on statin therapy can be treated effectively, with very good tolerability and without any safety issues.”

Full findings ran in the European Heart Journal.