Cholesterol busting drugs might be bad for you

New evidence has linked statins with severe depression and suicide.

Updated: Dec 21, 2010, 22:03 PM IST

London: Millions of people worldwide take cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins to prevent heart attacks and strokes but a new study questions whether they actually work.

Hailed as `wonder pills` by doctors and drug companies, other new evidence has linked statins with severe depression and suicide.

Statins are prescribed to anyone who is believed to have more than a 20 percent chance of a heart attack or stroke over the next 10 years, reports the Daily Mail.

It is hoped that, by lowering their cholesterol, the patients` death risk will drop significantly.

A new study by the Johns Hopkins University, US, however, suggests a great many people may not benefit from statins - that`s because it`s our calcium levels, not cholesterol, that really matter.

Their study of 950 men and women found that statins may only help patients if they have a calcium build-up or calcification in their blood vessels, according to a Hopkins`s statement.

Calcium makes arteries harden and increases the risk of high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke.

Scientists believe calcification is primarily caused by a combination of genes and ageing, along with poor lifestyle such as lack of exercise, bad diet and smoking.

Michael Blaha of Hopkins, who led the study, said: "Our results tell us that only those with calcium build-up in their arteries have a clear benefit from statin therapy."

These findings were presented at the American Heart Association earlier this month.