The tablets, which reduce cholesterol and are taken by an estimated six million people every day, have long dominated some newspaper front pages with claims they could be unsafe.
However, medical experts are warning that reliable studies which prove statins can help Britons prevent heart attacks and strokes are being overlooked.
A report published by The Lancet claims an MMR-style public health scare could emerge if the record is not set straight – and hundreds of thousands of people may have stopped taking the inexpensive, life-saving treatment after being exposed to misleading claims.
Although statins can cause muscle pain, diabetes or a haemorrhagic stroke, suggestions that side-effects include memory loss, liver disease, sleep disturbance, erectile dysfunction, kidney injury and cataracts are inaccurate.
Professor Rory Collins of Oxford University, one of the authors, said: “Our review shows that the numbers of people who avoid heart attacks and strokes by taking statin therapy are very much larger than the numbers who have side-effects with it.
“In addition, whereas most of the side-effects can be reversed with no residual effects by stopping the statin, the effects of a heart attack or stroke not being prevented are irreversible and can be devastating.”
In the late 1990s, the number of children receiving the combined measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine fell sharply after a publication by Dr Andrew Wakefield linked the jab to autism.
However, his research was widely discredited – and Dr Richard Horton, the editor of The Lancet – says lessons need to be learned to prevent misinformation in future.
Dr Horton added: “It’s very difficult for journals, on the one hand we don’t want to censor difficult views, our job is to promote debate in medical research, absolutely.
“However, at the same time, we have got to be very careful not to trigger and then promote a health scare.”
News Source SkyNews