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Statins: the other downsides

MagazineJune 2004 (Vol. 15 Issue 3)Statins: the other downsides

In addition to suppressing CoQ10 and possibly causing CHF, the major side-effects of statins include muscle pain and weakness (myopathy), liver and kidney damage, and a potentially fatal muscle-wasting disorder called rhabdomyolysis

In addition to suppressing CoQ10 and possibly causing CHF, the major side-effects of statins include muscle pain and weakness (myopathy), liver and kidney damage, and a potentially fatal muscle-wasting disorder called rhabdomyolysis.

In August 2001, the statin Baycol was withdrawn by its German manufacturer Bayer after 31 people died due to drug-induced rhabdomyolysis. From November 1997 to March 2000, 601 cases of statin-induced rhabdomyolysis - and 38 deaths - were voluntarily reported to the US Food and Drug Administration (Lancet, 2004; 363: 892-4).

Minor adverse effects include skin rash, constipation and headache.

Unofficial side-effects include cancer, nerve damage (peripheral neuropathy), memory loss and other cognitive problems. There's also the strong possibility that statins may cause diabetes, as insulin sensitivity is significantly reduced by these drugs (JAMA, 2002; 287: 598-605). Statins also deplete antioxidants by 25 per cent, which may explain the possible cancer connection.

Despite claims that side-effects affect only a tiny percentage of patients, the evidence indicates that as much as 65 per cent of those taking statins experience adverse side-effects (Am J Cardiol, 2003; 92: 670-6).

A new finding is that statin side-effects resemble symptoms of a deficiency in the antioxidant selenium (Lancet, 2004; 363: 892-4). It's believed that statins may somehow block selenoprotein synthesis. Selenoproteins are involved in the formation of the hormones thyroxine and glutathione peroxidase, and in muscle-cell regeneration. Interestingly, selenoprotein dysfunction is seen in diseases with symptoms similar to statin side-effects - namely, juvenile myopathy and muscular dystrophy.


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