Should statin drugs be put in the water, or what? More than 13 million Americans are taking these medications to lower their cholesterol and hopefully stave off heart disease -- a job the drugs appear to excel at. Statins can lower "bad" LDL cholesterol by 20% to 60%. Over time, this can lower the risk of having a heart attack by about the same amount.
For many years, it was believed that statins worked solely by reducing blood cholesterol, which can build up in sticky plaques in the arteries that supply blood to the heart, potentially blocking blood flow and causing heart attacks. But evidence is mounting that the drugs reduce heart disease risk through more than just their cholesterol-lowering effects. New research suggests they may be beneficial even for people with cholesterol in the normal range.
This has doctors and medical researchers debating whether many more people should be on statins than currently fall under treatment guidelines. Some drug companies and doctors have even argued that low doses of the drugs should be available over the counter, as they are in the United Kingdom.