They claim the advantages of taking statins for already healthy people are “vanishingly small” and insist diet and exercise deliver far more impressive results in maintaining a healthy heart.
It has also been claimed that “raw data” on the side-effects of the drugs is being withheld.
Statins are taken by six million Britons but remain highly controversial, with many patients complaining of crippling side-effects, while evidence suggests they have no impact on prolonging life.
The medication works to lower the level of cholesterol in the blood and can reduce cardiovascular disease.
In the bombshell review, author Dr Maryanne Demasi said: “Doctors prescribing statins should remain inherently sceptical because the majority of those taking [them] are healthy people at low risk, where the benefits are vanishingly small, and the raw data on side-effects is kept hidden.”
Writing in the British Journal Of Sports Medicine, Dr Demasi has been backed by a coalition of world-leading experts.
She claims statistics are manipulated to exaggerate the benefits of statins and underplay the risks, while dissenting views have been silenced.
Dr Demasi said: “Of utmost importance is that independent researchers are permitted to access the raw data on the side-effects of statins.
“We have learnt from the past, as in the case of Tamiflu, that when drug companies withhold crucial trial data from the public, it perverts the results by favouring the benefits of the drug and underplaying the harms.
“This secrecy has now cultivated doubt about the authenticity of the statin data.”
Millions are thought to have stopped taking the drugs for fear of being crippled by side-effects, including muscle aches, memory loss, kidney problems and sleep disturbance.
Sir Richard Thompson, the Queen’s former personal physician, said: “This formidable review adds to the voices that are questioning the cholesterol/statin/cardiovascular disease hypothesis and are criticising the presentation of many of the trial data.
“Physicians should emphasise the benefits on cardiovascular disease of physical activity and a Mediterranean diet, both of which are effective and safer and cheaper than drugs.”
Statins are the most commonly prescribed drug in Britain.
They cost about £2 per month.
But experts have criticised the decision to give cholesterol-lowering drugs to healthy people to stave off heart attacks or strokes.
Dr Malcolm Kendrick, an NHS GP from Macclesfield, Cheshire, said: “This research clearly demonstrates that statins do more harm than good.”
US cardiologist Dr Rita Redberg, of San Francisco Medical Centre, said: “Unfortunately, until all data is available and discussed with patients, millions of people taking these drugs will continue to have far greater chance of harm than benefit.”
In response Metin Avkiran, of the British Heart Foundation, said: “We have more than 20 years’ worth of research showing statins are an effective way of reducing the risk of a heart attack in people at high risk.
“The opinions expressed in this article don’t change anything and patients who have been prescribed statins should continue to take them.
“If you have any concerns, talk to your doctor.”