Cholesterol drugs harm muscles! As I’ve blogged many times before, we’ve seen severe inhibition of stem cell growth in culture due to statin cholesterol drugs. As a result, I’ve spent time combing the medical literature to trying to understand why. After all, if you believe the ads and studies sponsored by big pharma, these are wonder drugs that should even be taken by our kids! One clue that sheds more light on what they do may come from the effects of statins on normal muscle. We’ve seen many patients with chronic pain caused or exacerbated by statins. This facet of statin side effects is well documented and a recent study may show a bit more about what’s going on. While it seems like this study was designed to show that statins didn’t change muscle function, from reading the study it seems to show the opposite. For example, patients taking high dose atorvastatin (Lipitor) showed significant blood markers for muscle damage. In addition, about twice as many Lipitor patients developed muscle pain as controls. Lipitor is the long standing statin sales king, with more than 123 billion in worldwide sales by 2011. Another recent study suggested that drug company sponsored clinical trials on statins may be under reporting this issue. These sponsored studies seem to show only a handful of patients develop muscle pain, but this study found the rate to be much higher. A 2008 study showed that your odds of developing pain in certain areas after only 1 month of statin use was 159% greater for pain in the lower back and 150% higher for pain in the lower extremities (including hips, knees, and ankles). In another 2008 study the risks were starkly higher when longer exposure to all types of cholesterol drugs were considered. For Lescol the risk of developing muscle pain was more than 33 times higher than if you didn’t take the drug! For Ciprofibrate (used outside of the US under many brand names) the risk is more than 40X! After being on all cholesterol drugs for a year, the risks were more than 25 times higher! Why are statins attacking muscles? Take a few minutes to read this MIT’s academic’s theory of why cholesterol drugs are bad news. The upshot? The benefits of statins are very tiny and can only be measured over many years of use, but the downside risks are much larger and often under reported by the drug companies selling these blockbuster drugs. Our cell culture experience has led us to take a closer look at cholesterol drugs and what we see scares us too much to recommend that our patients routinely take these drugs. As I’ve said in another blog, you can get as much heart benefit from eating dark chocolate and we have yet to see a patient walk into the clinic with muscle damage from dark chocolate! In addition, if you have pain and are taking a drug for your cholesterol, you may want to consider talking to your doctor about taking a drug holiday to see if the pain goes away.
About the Author
Christopher J. Centeno, M.D. is an international expert and specialist in regenerative medicine and the clinical use of mesenchymal stem cells in orthopedics. He is board certified in physical medicine as well as rehabilitation and in pain management through The American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.…