As millions of Americans are prescribed popular statin drugs, which include brand name medications like Lipitor and Zocor, a new study suggests that more of those individuals will suffer inflammatory muscle conditions that may be caused by side effects of the cholesterol drugs.
Australian researchers published a study in the medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine last week, which indicates that taking a statin increased the risk of idopathic inflammatory myositis (IIM) by nearly 80%. They warned health care professionals to be aware of the connection and be prepared for increased incidence as use of statins increases worldwide.
Researchers conducted a case-control study of 221 patients with idopathic inflammatory myositis, and 662 control subjects using the South Australian Myositis Database data from 1990 to 2014. The subject involved patients 40 years and older.
There was almost a two-fold increase of the likelihood of statin exposure in patients with inflammatory myositis, the researchers noted, and there was an overall increased risk of 79%.
“In this large population-based study, statin exposure was significantly associated with histologically confirmed IIM,” the researchers concluded. “Given the increased use of statins worldwide and the severity of IIM, increased awareness and recognition of this potentially rare adverse effect of statin exposure is needed.”
Cholesterol Drug Health Risks
There have been questions about the consequences of over prescription and overuse of statins for years, due to the large number of patients that would be prescribed cholesterol drugs like Lipitor and Zocor.
Many critics have raised concerns that statins are being pushed on the populace too heavily, in what is often referred to as the “statinization” of America. Those concerns came after guidelines issued by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology, who indicated that statins are the only drugs doctors should prescribe to lower cholesterol and called for doctors to toss out
Statins are among the best-selling drugs in the United States, with $14.5 billion in combined sales in 2008. They use the liver to block the body’s creation of cholesterol, which is a key contributor to coronary artery disease. However, a number of studies have linked the drugs to an increased risk of potentially serious injuries, including muscle damage, kidney problems and diabetes.
All statins carry warnings about the potential risk of serious muscle injury, known as myopathy. The most severe form of the muscle damage is rhabdomyolysis, which may lead to severe kidney damage, kidney failure and death.
More recently, Lipitor, Crestor and other statins have been linked to an increased risk of diabetes, leading the FDA to require new warnings in February 2012 about potential impact the medications may have on blood sugar levels. Studies have suggested that otherwise healthy individuals who begin taking statins to reduce their risk of heart disease, may actually face an increased risk of diabetes, which itself increases the risk of cardiovascular disease.