Cholesterol-lowering statins may leave patients fatigued, according to a new study. Statins are a class of prescription drugs used in combination with diet and exercise to lower the blood levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol—so-called bad cholesterol.
The research found that statins can significantly increase risks for patients suffering from an energy drop or experiencing serious fatigue when exercising, said US News, citing new research. The finding was the result of a review of about 1,000 adults who were taking medications such as Pravachol and Zocor.
“We found that even at comparatively modest doses, statins were associated with a not-inconsequential drop in energy in some patients, a rise in fatigue with exertion in others and sometimes both,” lead study author Dr. Beatrice Golomb, associate professor of medicine at the University of California-San Diego, told US News. “This was true for both men and women…. But it appears to be more of a problem for female patients,” she added. Golomb and her colleagues discussed their findings in a research letter that was published online, June 11, in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.
The team looked at about 700 men and more than 300 women from the San Diego area to review potential links between statins and exhaustion and fatigue, said US News. Participants were all over the age of 20 and were diagnosed with elevated LDL levels. None had a history of heart disease or diabetes at the start of the study and all were randomly assigned to receive one of three treatments: Either 40 milligrams of Pravachol (pravastatin), considered the most water-soluble statin; 20 mg of Zocor (simvastatin), the most fat-soluble statin; or a sugar-pill placebo, said US News.
Patients taking either statin experienced much more fatigue than patients on a sugar pill and were likelier to experience both or either type of energy loss. Patients taking Zocor appeared to be at greater risk for fatigue; Zocor also achieved a much greater LDL level drop than Pravachol, said the team, wrote US News. Lipitor (atorvastatin) and Crestor (rosuvastatin) were not tested; however, the LDL-lowering impact of each—at 10mg and 2.5mg to 5mg—was similar to that of the studied drugs, according to the research.
Female participants appeared to be “disproportionately affected” by statin-related energy loss or fatigue, said the team, which noted that 40 percent of women taking Zocor said they experienced energy loss or fatigue with exercise, 20 percent said they experienced energy loss and fatigue, and 10 percent said they fared “much worse” in both areas, said US News. In men, 25 percent experienced the same issues in all categories, said Golomb.
“Overall, I have to say that the magnitude of the effect was surprising, despite the fact that we had previous reports indicating there was a problem,” Golomb said, according to US News. “So far, the only group for whom the benefits of taking statins has clearly been shown to outweigh the risks has been men under the age of 70 who have heart disease,” she added. “The findings have been, at best, equivocal for women, even if they have heart disease. And the same is true even for most middle-aged men at high risk who don’t have heart disease. When you add to that the fact that these drugs can have a strong negative impact on a patient’s quality of life, I think there is a rationale for rethinking their use among many individuals…. Preventive medicine should only be used when the benefits clearly outweigh the risks,” she concluded.
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) recently warned that statin levels have been updated to include information on drugs’ links to increased blood sugar levels and memory loss. Studies indicated some patients have a small, increased risk of experiencing memory loss and of being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. The agency stated it has received reports of blood sugar levels increasing with statin use and that certain cognitive (brain-related) effects have been reported with statin use.