Statins have virtually no side effects with patients experiencing fewer adverse symptoms than when taking a dummy drug, researchers have found.
Scientists found only a small minority of side effects were attributable to patients taking the cholesterol-busting drugs.
Surprisingly they found that those suffering more serious adverse effects were actually taking placebos as part of a controlled test.
Statins have been linked to numerous side effects including nausea, insomnia, fatigue, kidney issues, muscular problems and even erectile dysfunction.
But researchers at Imperial College London, who examined the results of 29 trials involving more than 80,000 patients, found the drug only slightly raised the risk of diabetes.
But they acknowledged many patients taking the drugs reported side effects, in contrast to the study results.
Dr Judith Finegold, part of the team carrying out the research, said: “We clearly found that many patients in these trials – whose patients are usually well-motivated volunteers who didn’t know if they were getting a real or placebo tablet – that many did report side effects while taking placebo.
“In the general population, where patients are being prescribed a statin for an asymptomatic condition, why would it be surprising that even higher of side effects are reported?
“Most people in the general population, if you repeatedly ask them a detailed questionnaire, will not feel perfectly well in every way on every day.
“Why should they suddenly feel well when taking a tablet after being warned of possible adverse effects?”
The authors of the report are now calling on drug regulators to provide clear evidence to patients about claims over side effects.
They said: “Patients and doctors need clear, reliable information about benefits and risks to make informed decisions.”
Dr Finegold added the results would not necessarily add weight to the argument for the wider prescription of statins.
She said: “We believe that patients should be empowered to make their own decisions, but we must first make sure they have top quality, unbiased information.
“This is why we call on drug regulators to highlight in the long lists of side effects those few whose rate is incrementally greater than that experienced with a dummy tablet.”
Last month it emerged that millions more patients in the UK could be prescribed statins to help prevent cardiovascular disease.
In draft guidance to the NHS for England and Wales, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has cut the threshold in half for when doctors should consider prescribing the drugs.
Currently, people with a 20 per cent risk of developing cardiovascular disease within 10 years are offered statins.
But this is being cut to include all people with a 10 per cent risk of developing cardiovascular disease within 10 years.
The NHS estimates that statins save 7,000 lives a year in the UK.