Collectively the revenues generated by statin cholesterol lowering drugs, like Lipitor, Crestor, Zocor, and Pravachol are in excess of 10 billion dollars a year!
Is taking these drugs a risk unto itself?
The answer is a resounding….YES!
Though these drugs are shown to reduce certain cardiovascular risks in people who have cardiovascular risk factors such as; hypertension, low HDL cholesterol, insulin resistance, high triglycerides, physicians are now recommending these drugs to people who don’t have any of these risks despite the fact that few if any studies show that there are any long-term benefits in people who have no cardiovascular risk factors.
The way statin drugs work is by blocking an enzyme (HMG-CoA reductase) that interferes with the synthesis of cholesterol. The fact that cholesterol is an essential building block of cellular membranes and that the average person who lives to be 100 years old or more, usually has much higher than recommended levels of total cholesterol, raises some very interesting questions and will be addressed in a subsequent article.
So where does the risk come in? Well, in blocking the action of HMG-CoA reductase, the statin drugs also block the synthesis of a compound necessary for production of energy in the muscles (including the heart muscles) and for other crucial bodily functions!
The compound, Co-Enzyme Q10 is an essential nutrient that is involved in energy production that occurs in the mitochondria. (The energy producing factories in our cells). The heart requires high levels of Co-Q10.
Side effects of CoQ-10 deficiency
Statin drugs often cause muscle pain and weakness. This is a condition known as rhabdomyolysis. Often because many people taking statin drugs are older, they think the pain is due to something else like arthritis, or soreness from exercise and very often goes unreported.
Rhabdomyolysis, if severe, can result in death related to acute kidney failure. The statin drug, Baycol, caused dozens of deaths due to rhabdomyolysis and was taken off the market.
Though not present on the labels of statin drugs when they were first released, all statin drug labels now carry the following warning – “Unexplained muscle pain and weakness could be a sign of a rare but serious side effect and should be reported to your doctor right away.”
Not So Rare
Dr. Beatrice Golomb of San Diego, California, reported in her study findings, that contrary to the 2-3 % that the pharmaceutical industry reports for occurrence of muscle pain, that as many as 98% on some statin drugs experience this problem.
Some patients taking statin drugs report memory loss and inability to concentrate. Accumulated data indicates that 50% of these cognitive issues occur within 5-60 days of starting statin treatment. Though most patients seem to recover after stopping the drug, it seems a small percentage may not. The actual percentage of statin users who experience these cognitive issues is not well established.
Nerve Pain and Dysfunction
It is estimated that 10-20% of people taking statin drugs will get neuropathy, resulting in feelings of fatigue, pain while walking and nerve tingling. A study from Denmark reported that long-term use of statin drugs (2 years or more) could increase the risk of developing neuropathy from 400-1400%. Individuals who are highly susceptible could experience neuropathy much sooner.
I urge my readers who are taking statin drugs to lower their cholesterol to supplement a minimum of 100 mg. per day of Co-Q. For those of you who are in major discomfort or have other heart issues regarding function or blood pressure, 300 mg. per day of Co-Q-10 is recommended.
I wrote an article in 2010 about recently released Crestor and stated that 598 out of every 600 people would needlessly take and pay for a newly approved drug that would do nothing for them except potentially introduce side-effects they did not have before. For those of you who are interested, here is a repost of part of my article;
The FDA recently approved the use of the statin cholesterol lowering drug Crestor, in healthy people whose cholesterol was not elevated. The alleged benefit of taking the drug is to reduce heart attacks and strokes in healthy people who had 2 risk factors – High C-Reactive Protein (which is a measure of inflammation) and high blood pressure or smoking.
The FDA based it’s approval to use Crestor preventively to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke because a large study showed about a 50+% risk reduction in this group of patients. WHAT COULD BE BAD ABOUT THAT?
It is very hard to understand why the FDA allows this 50% number to be used, without significant explanation to patients of the real meaning, benefits and risks of this statistic.
HERE IS THE EXPLANATION AS TO WHY ALLOWING THIS STATISTIC TO BE QUOTED IS SO MISLEADING.
The group of patients who were studied and to whom the medicine will be recommended, are basically healthy people who have no history of heart disease or stroke. If they smoke or have high blood pressure + show high C-Reactive protein, they qualify for the drug. The absolute risk of this group of patients for having a heart attack or stroke is 1/3 of 1 percent if they do nothing and don’t take the drug. In other words for every 600 patients in this group who do nothing, only 2 will ever have a heart attack or stroke. (and because they are healthy even those 2 heart attacks or strokes will probably not be life threatening).
Fast forward -A pharmaceutical giant conducts a study and gives thousands of these patients Crestor which costs $3.50 per pill per day and the study found that instead of 2 heart attacks or strokes occurring in every 600 patients, only 1 heart attack or stroke will occur in every 600 patients. Yes this is a reduction of 50% but 50% of a number that was so tiny, that it was an insignificant risk of occurring in these patients had they done nothing.
Another way to look at this is that the pharmaceutical company convinced the FDA to approve a drug (with potential serious side-effects) that needlessly put 598 people on a medicine they didn’t ever need and expose them to side-effects like liver toxicity and muscle problems, and increased risk of diabetes, to eliminate 1 (ONE) heart attack or stroke in 600 people. 598 people out of 600 pay for a drug that they not only didn’t need but could introduce serious health issues they didn’t have before.
To complicate the picture even more, the physician who receives a royalty on every C-reactive protein lab test run in the country, was the physician who convinced the drug company to do the study.
Many well known and respected physicians are concerned at the prospect of giving statin drugs to healthy people for such a ridiculously small benefit and other potential problems.
When it comes to your health, remember to do the research, and ask the right questions, so you can always make an informed decision.
To the Best of Health,
Curt Hendrix, M.S., C.C.S., C.N.S.