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Doctors skeptical over widen use of Statins

Known for lowering cholesterol levels, statins have recently been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a preventive drug for about 6.5 million Americans who have no cholesterol problems or signs of heart disease.

Statins are credited with saving thousands of lives every year with relatively few side effects, and some medical experts endorse the drug’s broader use. But some scientists and doctors are concerned that the benefits of this medication may not outweigh the risks. One study reported that statins may actually increase a patient’s risk of type 2 diabetes by 9 percent.

Researchers for this study based their findings on an analysis of most major clinical studies of statins, including unpublished data and the rosuvastatin calcium study results reviewed by the FDA. “It’s a good thing to be skeptical about whether there may be long-term harm from healthy people taking a drug like this,” says Dr. Mark A. Hlatky, a professor of health research and cardiovascular medicine at Stanford University Medical School.

There is also debate over the blood test being used to identify the new statin candidates. Instead of looking for bad cholesterol, the test measures the degree of inflammation in the body, but there is no consensus in the medical community that inflammation is a direct cause of cardiovascular problems.

“It’s good to hear that physicians are debating the potential benefits and risks of drugs,” adds Dr. Eric C. Colman, a deputy director of the FDA center for drug evaluation who also qualified that the decision provided an option, not a mandate, for doctors and patients.

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