Statin drugs are the most widely sold prescription medicine in history: in 2004, Pfizer’s block-buster drug, Lipitor, became the first prescription drug to amass a staggering $10 billion in annual sales. But, the price to society is much higher: Lipitor, and other drugs in the statin class, are not only lowering cholesterol.
These drugs apparently ruin perfectly good lives with serious side effects that lead to slow degradation into physical disability – and still heart disease remains the number one killer in the developed world.
Side Effects of Statin Drugs:
Side-effects are usually said to affect 2-6% of patients. In fact, a recent meta-analysis noted side-effects in 20% of patients above the placebo rate. (Newman CB, 2003. Am J. Cardiology:. 92) Most medicines destined to cause adverse effects will do so early on, but not the statins, where side-effects usually manifest many months after commencing the therapy. To maintain their lipid-lowering effects, statins must be administered on a life-long basis. Given the complete lack of data on the effects of decades of statin administration, users can consider themselves part of a mass experiment in progress.
Patients can report statins’ adverse effects on a new website at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine: www.statineffects .com. The site will facilitate the opportunity for patients to confidentially share information about their experience.
Statins have been shown to deplete the body of a vital substance known as Coenzyme Q10. CoQ10 is a crucial component of mitochondria, the intra-cellular engines responsible for producing all of a cell’s energy requirements. Since nearly all cellular functions are dependent on energy, CoQ10 is essential for the health of all human tissue and organs.
The heart is especially susceptible, because it requires vast amounts of energy to function properly, and therefore high levels of CQ10. As the CQ10 diminishes in the heart muscle, the heart weakens over time, resulting in congestive heart failure.( Silver MA 2004. Am. J.Cardiology:94) It is well documented from biopsies that the severity of heart failure correlates with the people who have lowest CoQ10.
Deaths from heart failure have doubled nationwide in the US since the introduction of statin drugs in 1989. Adding a double whammy – in patients with chronic heart failure, low serum cholesterol is also independently associated with a worse outcome.
( Rauchaus M et al 2003. J Am. Coll. Cardiology: 42)
It appears that cholesterol lowering drugs in general also increases one’s risk of developing cancer. In their study published in JAMA (1996: 275)Thomas B Newman and co-workers show that all cholesterol-lowering drugs – both the early drugs known as fibrates, and the statins – cause cancer in rodents at equivalent blood levels used in man
Although the lag time between exposure to a carcinogen and clinical detection, is often a decade or more, a disturbing increase in breast cancer has already been reported in the CARE statin trial as well as certain skin malignancies in the Simvastatin trials.
A report in 2006 from the Department of Haematology At the Toranon Hospital in Tokyo, Japan – studying patients between 1995 and 2001 – found a 224% higher frequency of statin use among patients with lymphoid malignancies, compared to control patients. (Iwata H 2006 Cancer Science:97) From April 1998 the FDA(US) allowed the exclusion of cancer from drug side-effects in the statin drug trials..
The incidence of memory impairment – complete memory loss for a brief or lengthy period -, confusion and disorientation and loss of concentration goes under reported.
Professor Golomb, Department of Medicine at UCSD found that 15% of patients on statins developed some cognitive side effects.
She states “We have seen people who have lost thinking so rapidly – from using statins – that they went from being heads of departments to not being able to balance a chequebook.”
A study conducted at the University of Pittsburgh showed that patients treated with statins for 6 months, compared poorly with patients on placebo in solving complex mazes, psychomotor skills and memory tests. (Muldoon MF et al 2000 Am. J. Med.: 108)
Muscle and nerve damage
On public adverse effects reporting websites, patients using statin drugs have reported trouble talking and enunciating words, trouble swallowing, feeling fatigued all the time, pain and stiffness in the neck and calf muscles, weakness and muscle spasms. Inflammation of tendons and ligaments, leading to rupture, can occur.
Researchers from the University of Denmark report that about 15% of cholesterol-lowering drug users over the age of fifty will suffer nerve damage as a direct result of using statin drugs.( Gaist D et al Neurology: May 2002: 58) Taking statins for more than two years raised the risk of nerve damage by about 26%.
Nerve damage, characterised by weakness, tingling and pain in hands and feet and difficulty walking, is often irreversible.
Numerous studies have also linked low cholesterol to depression.
Statins have immune suppressing effects ( Kwak B 2000 Nature Medicine:6)
Statins can cause difficulty in sleeping
Findings reported in the NEJM in 2004, showed that twenty of fifty two babies exposed to statins in the womb were born with malformations
Statins are associated with impaired libido and erectile dysfunction. ( Carvajal A 2006 Drug Safety:29)
Simvastatin decreased blood levels of alpha-tocopherol(Vit E) by 16.2%, beta carotene by 19.5% and CoQ10 by 22% compared to placebo.( Jula A. 2002. J. Am. Med. Assoc.:287).
A three year follow up in patients taking statins, revealed a significant amount of calcium only in the coronary arteries of the patients who had a heart attack, despite similar LDL cholesterol levels in the non-heart attack group.
There is some recognition that statins operate to lower non-fatal heart attack rates by mechanisms other than cholesterol lowering. These effects of statins are independent of initial or final total cholesterol or LDL levels (Nielsen JV. 2001 BMJ:323) and thus there is no way to determine “who should be treated” with statins, or what the dose should be.
Researchers in the Department of Veteran Affairs and at the University of Michigan School of Medicine, US, examined all the significant studies that have tested the link between LDL cholesterol levels and major cardiovascular outcomes in patients with high LDL blood levels.
Published in the Annals of Internal Medicine (2006) the researchers noted “current clinical evidence does not demonstrate that titrating lipid therapy to achieve proposed low LDL cholesterol levels is beneficial or safe”.
Statin use should be limited to high-risk patients, where dramatically shortened life expectancies may override any concerns about long-term side effects.
Careful examination of the literature on statin drugs, reveals false premises, minimal to no benefits, serious side effects leading to very low adherence rates, and safer, low-cost alternatives for preventing cardiovascular deaths.(Newman C B, 2003. American J. Cardiology: 92)
Can honest assessment find any possible use for these dangerous drugs?
Dr. Peter Langsjoen of Tyler, Texas, suggests that statin drugs are appropriate only as a treatment for cases of advanced Cholesterol Neurosis, created by the industry’s anticholesterol propaganda. If you are concerned about your cholesterol, a statin will relieve you of your worries.
Statin drugs side-effects Duane Graveline MD
The Great Cholesterol Con Anthony Colpo