Statins the most prescribed medications for cholesterol are believed by some to cause muscle and joint pain. However, a new study shows that they cause no more side effects than a placebo.
Statins, prescribed to fight cholesterol, are the main class of cholesterol-lowering drugs: They inhibit the function of HMG-Co-A reductase, an enzyme that controls cholesterol synthesis in liver cells. This inhibition also stimulates the expression of LDL receptors, allowing them to enter the target cell.
In the US, it is estimated that more than 34 million patients are currently on statin therapy. Although well-tolerated, about one in five patients discontinue treatment due to side effects. The main side effects reported are muscle and joint pain and fatigue. However, a new study published, in the British Medical Journal found that taking statins has no effect on the severity or frequency of muscle pain.
No difference between statins and placebo
To reach this conclusion, researchers followed 200 patients (mean age 69.5 years) from 50 general clinics in the UK who had just recently stopped or have been considering halting statin therapy due to muscle symptoms. Each patient was randomly assigned a sequence of six two-month treatment periods in which they received either statins or placebo. Neither the patients nor their doctors knew which pill they were receiving. 80% of the patients reported taking their drug treatment “every day” or “most days” during each period.
At the end of each treatment period, participants were asked to rate their muscle symptoms on a 0-10 point scale. The results showed that there was no difference in ratings of muscle symptoms between the statin period and the placebo period. There was also no difference in the effect of muscle symptoms on daily life (general activity, mood, relationships with others, ability to walk, normal work, sleep, and enjoyment of life) between the statin and placebo periods.
The negative expectation of Patients may play a role
Of the participants who dropped out of the study due to intolerable muscle symptoms, 9% were taking statins (18 patients) and 7% were taking placebo (13 participants). Two-thirds of the participants who completed the study said they planned to return to long-term statin therapy.
While the researchers point out that they studied the effect of only one type of statin (atorvastatin 20 mg) on muscle symptoms, they say it was a large, well-designed study based on repeated measurements of muscle pain in patients who experienced symptoms during statin therapy, which allowed them to more accurately assess the differences between statins and placebo. They now plan to conduct further studies to determine the effect of other types of statins and to test higher doses.
Are you taking a statin medication to lower your cholesterol levels? Have you suffered at any time while on statins from muscle pain? What brand of Statins are you taking and for how long? Did they help lower your cholesterol levels? Are the side effects so bad that you will consider stopping the use of statins altogether? Please share your case with our readers in the comments area below?