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expert reaction to a study suggesting that statins do not have any effect on muscle symptoms

A study published in The BMJ suggests that there is no overall effect of statins on the frequency or severity of muscle pain.

This Roundup accompanied an SMC Briefing.


Prof Sir Nilesh Samani, Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, said:

“This study provides further evidence through the lived experience of individuals that muscle pains often attributed to statins are not due to the drug. The use of each patient as their own control in the trial provides a powerful way of distinguishing the effect of a statin from that of taking a pill. The findings should give confidence to patients who may be concerned about taking statins.”


Prof Tim Chico, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine and Honorary Consultant Cardiologist, University of Sheffield, said:

“This study uses a clever design (called n=1, because n is the symbol for number of participants in studies) where the same patient gets both the active drug and the placebo (at different times) and the effect on muscle ache is compared. In line with other studies, when compared with placebo, statins were very unlikely to cause an increased risk of muscle ache; not different to placebo in this study.

“This study provides a useful approach (the n=1 study) that could be used in real life to help patients understand the cause of their own possible side effects, which could also be applied to medications other than statins. I often encounter people who have a firmly held view that statins cause muscle pains even when they haven’t taken these medications themselves, and I hope that this study may help change this view and make them willing to try such an ‘experiment’.

“The patients in the study were willing to participate and take statins again. This means this group may not be completely representative of all those who believe they experience side effects with statins as anyone who refused to take statins ever again would not have been recruited.”



Statin treatment and muscle symptoms: series of randomised, placebo controlled n-of-1 trials’ by Emily Herrett et al. will be published in The BMJ at 23:30 UK time on Wednesday 24th February 2021, which is also when the embargo will lift.

DOI: 10.1136/bmj.n135



Declared interests

Prof Tim Chico: “No conflicts.”

None others received.

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