Serious Issues With Statin Drugs

Many experts agree that cholesterol-lowering statin drugs are over-prescribed in America and worldwide.  Even the American Council of Science and Health is concerned about the number of American adults taking statin drugs. For example, the statin atorvastatin (Lipitor) and simvastatin (Zocor) are among the top 5 most widely prescribed drugs in the United States.  We now have more than 25% of adults over 40 taking statin drugs!

 

Sidebar-Common Statin Drugs

  • atorvastatin (Lipitor)
  • fluvastatin (Lescol)
  • lovastatin (Mevacor, Altocor)
  • pravastatin (Pravachol)
  • pitavastatin (Livalo)
  • simvastatin(Zocor)
  • rosuvastatin (Crestor)

 

Muscle Damage Concerns

If you are one of those people whose doctor has convinced you to be on a statin drug, or you are in a high cardiovascular risk group where a statin is actually indicated, then you should be aware of the research demonstrating that up to 29% of users experience the side effect of myopathy (muscle pain or damage. About 10% of statin users discontinue the drug due to side effects, with the most common myopathy. Although rare, a serious condition from statin use can occur. It is known as rhabdomyolysis and can occur where muscle tissue is destroyed and the afflicted person experiences muscle pain, muscle weakness, and brown urine.

If you are experiencing muscle discomfort your doctor may measure an enzyme in your muscles known as CPK. If elevated it confirms your muscles are being damaged by your statin drug. However, this test should not be relied upon to determine if your muscle pain is coming from your statin (I would stop it immediately and consult your doctor).

In 2009 the Canadian Medical Association Journal reported on a study where thigh muscle biopsies were obtained as well as blood creatine phosphokinase (CPK) levels from patients with clinically diagnosed statin-associated myopathy. Also included in the study were people taking statins who had no myopathy and those who had never taken statins and had no myopathy. What the researchers discovered was both astounding and scary. They found that significant muscle injury was observed in 25 out of 44 people with myopathy! They also reported that only 1 patient with muscle damage based on the biopsy testing had an elevated CPK level. In other words, the biopsy showed the muscle damage (a more precise test than a blood test) but the CPK test was next to useless in identifying the muscle damage!

So according to this test, if one starts on a statin drug and experiences muscle pain and their doctor measures their blood CPK level (since muscle biopsies are not routinely performed) you could well be told your statin drug has nothing to do with your muscle pain! The researchers also found evidence of significant muscle damage in people who had formerly used statin therapy and had been off statins for a significant amount of time. And as expected there was no significant muscle damage for those not taking statins.

 

Preventative Genetic Testing

Why not use technology to predict whether you are not genetically compatible with statin drugs? The use of gene-drug testing can identify someone with a likelihood of having muscle damage from a statin drug. The main gene tested for myopathy is SLCO1B1*5. Your doctor can test this with a blood or cheek swab test. In a recent randomized study, 25% of trial participants were SLCO1B1*5 carriers.

 

Consider Your Options

There are many options, holistic and pharmaceutical that can be used as alternatives to statin drugs, particularly if your genes are not compatible with statins.

 

Dr. Mark Stengler NMD, MS, is a bestselling author in private practice in Encinitas, California, at the Stengler Center for Integrative Medicine. His newsletter, Dr. Stengler’s Health Breakthroughs, is available at www.americasnaturaldoctor.com  His clinic website is www.markstengler.com

 

References

Bezerow A. 2019. Are Doctors Overprescribing Statins? American Council on Science and Health. https://www.acsh.org/news/2018/07/18/are-doctors-overprescribing-statins-13208

Fuentes A, Pineda M, Venkata K. 2018. Comprehension of Top 200 Prescribed Drugs in the US as a Resource for Pharmacy Teaching, Training and Practice. Pharmacy 6:43. [accessed 2019 Jun 30]

Newman C, Preiss D, Tobert J, Jacobson T, Page R, Goldstein L, Chin C, Tannock L, Miller M, Raghuveer G et al. 2019. Statin Safety and Associated Adverse Events: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association. Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology 39. [

Tuteja S, Rader D. 2018. SLCO1B1 and Statin Therapy. Circulation: Genomic and Precision Medicine 11. https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/CIRCGEN.118.002320

Newman C, Preiss D, Tobert J, Jacobson T, Page R, Goldstein L, Chin C, Tannock L, Miller M, Raghuveer G et al. 2019. Statin Safety and Associated Adverse Events: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association. Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology 39.

Mohaupt M, Karas R, Babiychuk E, Sanchez-Freire V, Monastyrskaya K, Iyer L, Hoppeler H, Breil F, Draeger A. 2009. Association between statin-associated myopathy and skeletal muscle damage. Canadian Medical Association Journal 181:E11-E18.