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Drugs that target high cholesterol come with new cautions

New FDA warnings about the side effects of cholesterol-lowering statins have physicians and patients weighing the risks and benefits of taking these drugs

Cholesterol-lowering statins, prescribed to some 30 million Americans, have begun to lose a bit of their luster. Signs are starting to appear that the risks of taking statins may outweigh the benefits for people at low risk of having a heart attack. Some doctors have begun to question the wisdom of putting young adults with high cholesterol on statins for decades, and many expressed outrage at national guidelines issued last year to test cholesterol levels in 9-to-11-year-olds, which could result in a surge of children being placed on statins.

A set of warnings and safety recommendations issued in February by the US Food and Drug Administration require that statin labels include information about the possibility of cognitive side effects such as memory loss and confusion, and an increase in blood sugar levels that could trigger type 2 diabetes. Already on manufacturer websites, the warnings will soon be appearing on the package inserts that accompany prescriptions.

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