A study published in the journal Drug Safety examined side effects linked with individual statin brands reported to the American drug watchdog, the Food and Drug Administration.
It found two of the most commonly used statins – simvastatin and atorvastatin – increased the risk of suffering from ALS, a form of motor neurone disease, 17 and 23 fold respectively.
Although the chances are still small, experts say this would equate to up to 1,400 extra cases of ALS in the UK every year. Professor Stephen Hawking suffered from a form of ALS.
Statins are routinely given to 12 million patients in the UK to lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease.
They are the UK’s most commonly prescribed drug, yet cholesterol is critical for nerve function and lowering it could have damaging consequences in rare cases.
Dr Malcolm Kendrick, who has studied statins and heart health, said: “This study adds to the growing evidence that we need an urgent review of these drugs.” The study was led by the San Diego School of Medicine, California.
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