More Potent Statins Linked to Muscle Damage

Statin drugs prescribed to lower cholesterol levels are more likely to cause severe muscle injuries when taken at higher doses or when more potent forms of the drug are used.

According to a report on a new study from researchers at University of California-San Diego School of Medicine, certain statin drugs carry a higher risk than others because they’re formulated to be more powerful. Also, high doses of the drugs should be limited because they, too, carry a more significant risk of causing muscle injuries.

Results of the new study have been published online by the journal PLoS One.

For the study, researchers consulted the Food and Drug Administration’s adverse event database which tracks reported side effects from pharmaceutical products and defects with medical devices. Statin drug were linked to nearly 150,000 adverse event reports between Jly 2005 and March 2011. Every “major” statin drug was linked to at least one report, the data showed.

The strongest in this class of cholesterol-lowering drugs, rosuvastatin (marketed as Crestor in name brand form), was linked with more adverse event reports than any other statin drugs. The report indicates atorvastatin, simvastatin, pravastatin, and lovastatin had the next highest rates of adverse events reported, in that order. The study classified adverse event reports based on those that involved muscle injuries and others that included other side effects.

The results go against the traditional thinking that Crestor (rosuvastatin) should not be connected with the highest rate of muscle injuries because it is more fat soluble than others and should be absorbed by fat cells before it can penetrate muscle cells to cause injury.

This led researchers to determine that the strongest statin drugs, or those taken at the highest doses, should only be taken when absolutely necessary and physicians should seek the lowest possible effective dose for a patient. Higher doses were associated with more adverse event reports and that the highest potency of Crestor (rosuvastatin) may be causing more harm than any of its purported benefits.

More than 30 million people in the U.S. take statin drugs to lower cholesterol or prevent cardiovascular disease. The drugs have been the focus of numerous warnings and safety alerts regarding their links to dangerous side effects, especially when taken at the highest doses. In fact, just last year the FDA restricted use of 80-milligram Zocor to patients who’ve been taking a statin drug for more than a year because it was more likely to cause myopathy (severe muscle injuries) when taken during the first year of treatment.

Some popular brand names of statin drugs include Lipitor, Zocor, Pravachol, Crestor, Lescol, Mevacor, and Baycol.

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