Background Statins are effective in preventing cardiovascular disease (CVD) events and are recommended for at-risk individuals but estimated adherence rates are low. Aim To describe patients' perspectives, experiences, and attitudes towards taking statins. Design and setting Systematic review of qualitative studies reporting perspectives of patients on statins. Method PsycINFO, CINAHL, Embase, MEDLINE, and PhD dissertations from inception to 6 October 2016 were searched for qualitative studies on adult patients' perspectives on statins. All text and participant quotations were extracted from each article and analysed by thematic synthesis. Results Thirty-two studies involving 888 participants aged 22-93 years across eight countries were included. Seven themes were identified: confidence in prevention (trust in efficacy, minimising long-term catastrophic CVD, taking control, easing anxiety about high cholesterol); routinising into daily life; questioning utility (imperceptible benefits, uncertainties about pharmacological mechanisms); medical distrust (scepticism about overprescribing, pressure to start therapy); threatening health (competing priorities and risks, debilitating side effects, toxicity to body); signifying sickness (fear of perpetual dependence, losing the battle); and financial strain. Conclusion An expectation that statins could prevent CVD and being able to integrate the statin regimen in daily life facilitated acceptance of statins among patients. However, avoiding the 'sick' identity and prolonged dependence on medications, uncertainties about the pharmacological mechanisms, risks to health, side effects, costs, and scepticism about clinicians' motives for prescribing statins were barriers to uptake. Shared decision making that addresses the risks, reasons for prescribing, patient priorities, and implementing strategies to minimise lifestyle intrusion and manage side effects may improve patient satisfaction and continuation of statins.