The benefits of statins may not outweigh the risks when given to children and some women, according to a series reports from the Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs project.

The reports also questioned the effectiveness of statins in lowering cholesterol and treating people who have cardiovascular disease.

Statins are prescribed to lower low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels, and can decrease blockages in the arteries of people with atherosclerosis.

The reports note that no long-term studies of statin use in children have been carried out to establish whether or not these medications reduce the number of heart attacks or other cardiovascular events in adulthood.

There is also concern over the long-term risk to the central nervous system, organs, immune function and hormone levels of children and adolescents who use these medications for prolonged periods.

Statins could also cause headaches, joint and muscle pain, and diarrhoea in women who have high levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol but not heart disease, the report adds.

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Less common risks include liver damage and rhabdomylosis, a breakdown of muscle tissue that can lead to coma and death.