Still More Bad News For Statins

      78 Comments on Still More Bad News For Statins

As if we didn’t already know …

A newly-published study highlights one of the nasty side-effects of statins:

The popular cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins might take a toll on people’s energy levels, a new study suggests.

Researchers say the potential side effect, which has yet to be confirmed by other experiments, is a particular concern for women. They estimate that out of 10 women taking Merck’s Zocor, also called simvastatin, four would have less energy or feel more tired during exercise due to the drug.

Well, that’s the thing:  when a drug destroys the mitochondria in your muscles, you tend to feel a bit fatigued while exercising.  Doing the same work with a weaker muscle means the muscle will wear out sooner.

As I wrote in a post last year, athletes are particularly quick to notice the loss of strength caused by statins and to stop taking them.  No surprise there, since for a professional athlete, a small change in athletic performance can mean the difference between being a millionaire or a has-been.  For people whose most strenuous activity is walking from the parking lot to the office doors, the damage could go undetected for a long time.

Dr. Beatrice Golomb, who led the new research, told Reuters Health that many patients experience fatigue after starting on a statin, but that the evidence until now has been limited to observations.

We’ve met Dr. Golomb before.  She’s been tracking the effects of statins for years and gave an outstanding (if a bit hard to follow because she speaks so quickly) lecture on how pharmaceutical companies have corrupted medical science that I embedded in a previous post.

Statins are generally thought to be safe drugs, but may cause muscle and joint pain in some patients.

Statins are generally thought to be safe because doctors are generally misinformed about the side effects and don’t generally spot and report them.  As I’ve mentioned before, my mom suffered muscle and joint pain on statins.  Her doctor never made the connection and (of course) prescribed pain pills to cover the effects.

Dr. Franz Messerli, who runs the hypertension program at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital in New York and was not involved in the research, said the new findings were concerning and not unexpected given statins’ effect on muscle tissue.

But another expert cautioned that the study had some limitations and said patients shouldn’t stop taking their medication before talking to a doctor.

Gosh yes, talk to your generally misinformed doctor before dumping a medication you don’t need in the first place.  That way your doctor can say, “But it makes me feel good about myself when your cholesterol score goes down, so I’d urge you to keep taking the drugs.”

“Fatigue is reversible and not fatal,” Dr. Kausik Ray told Reuters Health by email. “Risks and benefits in absolute terms should be discussed on a case by case basis.”

What the @#$% makes Dr. Ray so sure the fatigue is reversible?  According to Dr. Duane Graveline, who has been studying statin side-effects for years, the damage to the mitochondria can be permanent — as it was in his case.

And are we really going to tell people it’s okay to be fatigued for the rest of their lives as long as the effect isn’t fatal?!

“I have good news and bad news, Ms. Smith.”

“What’s the bad news, Doctor?”

“You’ll probably feel tired and sore for the rest of your life.”

“What’s the good news?”

“You can live a long, long time feeling tired and sore.”

Ray, who studies heart disease prevention at St. George’s University of London, added that in his experience fatigue is not a common problem with statins.

My mom’s doctor would probably make the same statement, since she didn’t connect the muscle pain and fatigue to the statins.

But Golomb, of the University of California, San Diego, countered that doctors often fail to make the link between fatigue and statin use in their patients.  “Often it doesn’t show up right away so physicians may not recognize the effect,” she told Reuters Health.

Like I said …

Neither Merck nor Bristol-Myers Squibb could provide comments on the findings, which are published in Archives of Internal Medicine.

Don’t be silly.  Of course they could provide comment.  They chose not to, for obvious reasons.

Studies have found that in people without heart disease the benefits of statins are very small at best. As a result, Golomb said, it’s worth considering potential side effects such as fatigue before taking the drugs.

Yes, pretty please, consider the potential side-effects:  muscle damage, joint pain, cognitive impairment, diabetes, liver damage, and loss of sex drive, to name just a few.

Then tell your doctor no, you won’t be taking statins.


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78 thoughts on “Still More Bad News For Statins

  1. johnny

    On statins, you will be feeling tired and sore but will not live a long, long time. It just will seem longer.

  2. Dave, RN

    I hate those drugs! Working in the cardiovascular scene of the medical machine, Many of our patients are on statins.

    One of the biggest challenges is how to keep the elderly from falling. What causes falling? Among things, muscle weakness. And falls are a HUGE focus in home-care. We spend a lot of time and money trying minimize falls, tracking them when they happen, giving very expensive physical therapy. There is even an ICD-9 code “muscle weakness” etc etc. But take them off statins to reduce falls? No way. That would be treason if you’re a cardiologist. It doesn’t matter if about half of those on the operating room table getting a heart cath or a bypass have normal cholesterol.

    Statistically, when the elderly fall and break a hip, the average lifespan is around 18 months. Just another reason to get off those things.

    Since statins haven’t been shown to benefit people over 65, it’s malpractice to give them to old people who are already getting weaker.

  3. AndreaLynnette

    Cholesterol of 150, ended up with a triple bypass. And yet there are still doctors out there claiming cholesterol that low makes you “heart-attack proof.”

    Even worse, it was a quadruple bypass. As in, four arteries. They were 90, 92, 95, and 98 percent accluded (or, “blocked up” in normal-people speak). And after the surgery, they put her on statins! Because that’s the standard protocol! Then, when her HDLs plummeted (surprise, surprise!), they put her on a second drug to artificially raise her HDL. I had one HECK of a hissy fit.

    She stopped taking the statins, and is eating better now. Not necessarily GOOD, but better. She won’t eat animal fat unless it’s butter or a little bit of bacon. I’m working on her, though.

    My dad was on Lipitor for 20 but still ended up with coronary arteries 98% blocked. Even before I learned about statin side effects, that result didn’t impress me.

  4. Sue D

    FYI – my Norton antivirus program is trying to block your site saying it is a fraudulant/phishing site.

    We checked with the tech department at our web provider. They’re not finding anything. Apparently it’s an issue with Norton extensions.

  5. Peter

    2 days ago while watching our kids practicing in swimming team at our local Y, I had a conversation w/ a dietician. She’s big on plant-eating paradigm (the Ornish and China Study dogma), that fat, especially saturated fat as cause of obesity and Type 2 diabetes.
    I asked her, if I ate 2 tablespoon of butter by itself, would that cause blood sugar to go up.
    Nope, she says.
    If I ate 2 tbl of sugar, would it cause blood sugar to surge?
    Yes, but that’s because plain sugar is processed, unnatural , therefore ‘bad’ and caused damage to body.
    She countered: ‘But eat an apple, that would not cause such blood sugar to rise so damagingly like plain sugar, because apple has micronutrients like antioxidants, vitamins and etc that prevent such glycemic harms.’

    I sighed silently in my head as she got the basic sciences wrong. The body only sees molecules. A carb is a carb is a carb, whether it’s from apple, oatmeal or sugar jar. It is broken down into various forms of glucose, fructose and etc. 1 1/2 cup of raw apple has 25 grams of carbs, equivalent to 2 tbl of sugar, same as the plain sugar.

    The advice of this professional dietician is hurting her patients. I didn’t say it aloud, as I am not credentialed and don’t want to be obnoxious. Interestingly people overheard our discussion and quite a few raised their thumbs to support the dietician.

    When evidence contradicts dogma, ditch the evidence.

    I feel badly for her fans and especially her clients.

    Yup, they’re getting bad advice from an authority figure.

  6. AndreaLynnette

    The best part of this is when the doctors blame the patient for their crappy medicine not working! I wonder if I can do this in other parts of my life?

    Me: “My car won’t run!”
    Mechanic: “Well, it looks like you put grape juice in the tank instead of gas. And also, you put plastic wrap over half your sparkplug contacts.”
    Me: “Obviously the car isn’t TRYING hard enough!”
    Mechanic: “Have you considered giving it the fuel it needs and not interfering with its processes?”
    Me: “That’s just crazy talk!”

    Mechanics know better: http://www.fathead-movie.com/index.php/2009/10/26/what-if-mechanics-and-nutritionists-switched-jobs/

  7. Sue D

    FYI – my Norton antivirus program is trying to block your site saying it is a fraudulant/phishing site.

    We checked with the tech department at our web provider. They’re not finding anything. Apparently it’s an issue with Norton extensions.

  8. Peter

    2 days ago while watching our kids practicing in swimming team at our local Y, I had a conversation w/ a dietician. She’s big on plant-eating paradigm (the Ornish and China Study dogma), that fat, especially saturated fat as cause of obesity and Type 2 diabetes.
    I asked her, if I ate 2 tablespoon of butter by itself, would that cause blood sugar to go up.
    Nope, she says.
    If I ate 2 tbl of sugar, would it cause blood sugar to surge?
    Yes, but that’s because plain sugar is processed, unnatural , therefore ‘bad’ and caused damage to body.
    She countered: ‘But eat an apple, that would not cause such blood sugar to rise so damagingly like plain sugar, because apple has micronutrients like antioxidants, vitamins and etc that prevent such glycemic harms.’

    I sighed silently in my head as she got the basic sciences wrong. The body only sees molecules. A carb is a carb is a carb, whether it’s from apple, oatmeal or sugar jar. It is broken down into various forms of glucose, fructose and etc. 1 1/2 cup of raw apple has 25 grams of carbs, equivalent to 2 tbl of sugar, same as the plain sugar.

    The advice of this professional dietician is hurting her patients. I didn’t say it aloud, as I am not credentialed and don’t want to be obnoxious. Interestingly people overheard our discussion and quite a few raised their thumbs to support the dietician.

    When evidence contradicts dogma, ditch the evidence.

    I feel badly for her fans and especially her clients.

    Yup, they’re getting bad advice from an authority figure.

  9. Marilyn

    @Elenor. Greetings from a kindred spirit. Let’s hear a cheer for low carb and bacon! Like you, I’m still-fat (sigh!), but have very similar lab values:
    Trigs: 66
    Total cholesterol: 232 (right where I want it, thank you very much!)
    HDL: 87
    LDL (calc.): 132
    Ratio: 2.7
    (I’m 15 years older than you, and on no meds.) 🙂

  10. Marilyn

    @Elenor. Greetings from a kindred spirit. Let’s hear a cheer for low carb and bacon! Like you, I’m still-fat (sigh!), but have very similar lab values:
    Trigs: 66
    Total cholesterol: 232 (right where I want it, thank you very much!)
    HDL: 87
    LDL (calc.): 132
    Ratio: 2.7
    (I’m 15 years older than you, and on no meds.) 🙂

  11. Scott

    I was going through my desk last week and I found a bottle of statins still in the bag from the pharmacy (I haven’t taken statins in 6 months) I also found some pink wrappers I was saving from yoplait nonfat yogurt for breast cancer. I think I need to clean my desk more often.

    I had the same thought when I found an old box for “Smart Meat” — a lowfat meat full of nasty additives.

  12. Scott

    I was going through my desk last week and I found a bottle of statins still in the bag from the pharmacy (I haven’t taken statins in 6 months) I also found some pink wrappers I was saving from yoplait nonfat yogurt for breast cancer. I think I need to clean my desk more often.

    I had the same thought when I found an old box for “Smart Meat” — a lowfat meat full of nasty additives.

  13. Firebird7478

    As someone who has lived most of his life with tremendous fatigue (No diet has been able to change that), it is NOT fun and is quite debilitating. Any doctor who would tell you otherwise is a moron.

  14. Firebird7478

    As someone who has lived most of his life with tremendous fatigue (No diet has been able to change that), it is NOT fun and is quite debilitating. Any doctor who would tell you otherwise is a moron.

  15. Walter B

    The world is not a bit mad about satins; it’s barking psychotic about satins. Even the people pushing them are taking them.

  16. Walter B

    The world is not a bit mad about satins; it’s barking psychotic about satins. Even the people pushing them are taking them.

  17. pam

    isn’t diabetic one of the side effect of statin?

    sorry, i really want to punch Dr. Ray’s face btw. fatigue is _rare_? & reversible?

    whan a patient complains about side effects of statin, most doctors probably:

    (1) fatigue, weakness (or whatever side effect) is part of the normal aging.

    (my husband’s hands started tremor within a month of simvastatin & was told by his Good Doc it was “essential tremor” from “aging” & statin could not have done that.

    (2) it’s all in the patient’s head.

    (btw, it took more than 2 years of coQ10 + red meat + SFA. now his tremor is barely noticeable.

    stay healthy!

    That’s part of the problem. Older people take statins, then develop pains, and the doctors figure it’s just part of aging.

  18. pam

    isn’t diabetic one of the side effect of statin?

    sorry, i really want to punch Dr. Ray’s face btw. fatigue is _rare_? & reversible?

    whan a patient complains about side effects of statin, most doctors probably:

    (1) fatigue, weakness (or whatever side effect) is part of the normal aging.

    (my husband’s hands started tremor within a month of simvastatin & was told by his Good Doc it was “essential tremor” from “aging” & statin could not have done that.

    (2) it’s all in the patient’s head.

    (btw, it took more than 2 years of coQ10 + red meat + SFA. now his tremor is barely noticeable.

    stay healthy!

    That’s part of the problem. Older people take statins, then develop pains, and the doctors figure it’s just part of aging.

  19. Richard

    I’m a Chiropractor so its malpractice for me to say anything about drugs to my patients. If your neighbor wants to tell you ANYTHING about drugs or cancer or anything its totally legal. When I try to suggest Statins might not be the best idea most of my patients agree but WILL NOT STOP ANYWAY!

    Yup, they’re still bamboozled into thinking beating down their cholesterol must somehow be good for them.

  20. Richard

    I’m a Chiropractor so its malpractice for me to say anything about drugs to my patients. If your neighbor wants to tell you ANYTHING about drugs or cancer or anything its totally legal. When I try to suggest Statins might not be the best idea most of my patients agree but WILL NOT STOP ANYWAY!

    Yup, they’re still bamboozled into thinking beating down their cholesterol must somehow be good for them.

  21. PeggySu

    Another vote for nail polish. Worked every time for North Carolina chiggers 50 to 60 years ago! If you get another bite, do try the nail polish on one of them as a test. You want a nice thick coat about the size of penny.

    Okay, but it’s going to mess with psyche a bit, wearing nail polish.

  22. PeggySu

    Another vote for nail polish. Worked every time for North Carolina chiggers 50 to 60 years ago! If you get another bite, do try the nail polish on one of them as a test. You want a nice thick coat about the size of penny.

    Okay, but it’s going to mess with psyche a bit, wearing nail polish.

  23. Henry Miller

    @Richard. That is the most weird situation if I am a health practitioner. Definitely your hands are every tied either by the pharmacheutical companies or your patients.

  24. Henry Miller

    @Richard. That is the most weird situation if I am a health practitioner. Definitely your hands are every tied either by the pharmacheutical companies or your patients.

  25. Lex

    A couple years ago, I had my cholesterol at a normal level. I put on a little weight (6′, 195), and I told my doctor my chol will probably be increased (even though I run 6x per week), and I told him I’ll take Cholestoff or similar and lose weight to get them back down. The results were LDL 213, and my triglycerides dropped to 109. His office called and said I need to start taking statins. Grrrr. Now I keep getting calls from Kaiser telling me to pickup the pills and begin taking them. Time to find a new doctor, all they do is look at their computer screen when you see them, anyway.

    Yup. And if your insurer insists you pick up the pills, do so to make them happy. Then throw them away.

  26. Lex

    A couple years ago, I had my cholesterol at a normal level. I put on a little weight (6′, 195), and I told my doctor my chol will probably be increased (even though I run 6x per week), and I told him I’ll take Cholestoff or similar and lose weight to get them back down. The results were LDL 213, and my triglycerides dropped to 109. His office called and said I need to start taking statins. Grrrr. Now I keep getting calls from Kaiser telling me to pickup the pills and begin taking them. Time to find a new doctor, all they do is look at their computer screen when you see them, anyway.

    Yup. And if your insurer insists you pick up the pills, do so to make them happy. Then throw them away.

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