Cholesterol-lowering statin medications are the fourth most prescribed drugs in America, and that number will likely skyrocket if new guidelines for treating the condition are adopted.
The data comes from the Rochester Epidemiology Project, conducted by researchers with Mayo Clinic and Olmsted Medical Center, and funded by the National Institute on Aging and the Mayo Clinic Center for the Science of Health Care Delivery. According to the data, nearly 70 percent of Americans take at least one prescription medication, and more than half take two. Twenty percent reportedly take five or more prescription medications. The most popular medications prescribed are antibiotics, antidepressants and painkilling opioids.
Overall, women and older adults take the bulk of prescription drugs, and most older adults are given drugs for cardiovascular conditions, including medications to lower cholesterol levels and reduce heart attack and stroke risk, such as the widely prescribed Lipitor.
In November of last year, the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association released new guidelines for the treatment of blood cholesterol in people at high risk for cardiovascular diseases that some say could more than double the number of people who are prescribed statins. The concern? Statin medications carry potentially dangerous side effects.
Statins have been linked to muscle pain and damage, which has often sidelined previously active patients. The drug has also been associated with liver damage, which requires patients on statin therapy to have their liver enzymes monitored on a regular basis. Some patients have experienced memory loss or confusion while taking statin drugs.
It is also possible for statins to increase blood sugar levels, which may lead to the development of type 2 diabetes. The risk is important enough that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ordered statin makers to update product safety labels to include information regarding blood glucose levels and diabetes. Patients are encouraged to talk to their doctors with any concerns.
Source: Mayo Clinic