Crestor Linked to Highest Risk of Muscle Injury Among Statins: Study

Although all statin-based cholesterol lowering drugs pose a risk of muscle injury, new research indicates that the more potent the medication is, the higher risk users may face, with side effects of Crestor linked to the greatest risk of muscle problems.  

In a study published this week in the medical journal PLoS One, researchers from the University of California – San Diego looked at adverse events reports sent to the FDA involving cholesterol medications from the class of drugs known as statins, finding that the relative risk rate for muscle injury associated with different drugs coincided with the medication’s potency for lowering LDL cholesterol.

After mining data from July 2005 to March 2011, researchers found that the relative risk rate for Crestor, which is the most potent of the class of medications, was consistently higher than other statin drugs. It was followed by Lipitor and Zocor, with Pravachol and Mevacor having the lowest risk.

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Researchers say that those results line up with the relative potency of the drugs, indicating that the stronger the cholesterol-fighting effects, the higher the muscle injury risk. They also found a link between dosage, with patients taking higher doses more at risk of muscle injury.

All statins have been found to carry a risk of 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. All statins currently contain a warning that myopathy and rhabdomyolysis are rare possible side effects.

Rhabdomyolysis causes muscle fibers to begin to break down, releasing a protein called myoglobin, which can damage the kidneys as they attempt to filter it out of the bloodstream. Symptoms of rhabdomyolysis include muscle cramps, tenderness, stiffness, pain or spasms. The illness is usually reported in patients over 65 years of age or those who have renal impairment or uncontrolled hypothyroidism.

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.

According to another report released late last year by AdverseEvents, Inc., which developed a method of analyzing the FDA’s Adverse Event Reporting System (AERS) data, researchers found that reports involving muscle problems with Crestor outnumbered all other statins.

Since it was introduced in 2003, Crestor (rosuvastatin) has become one of the best selling medications in the United States, with millions of Americans using the drug to help lower their cholesterol levels.

In 2005, the non-profit consumer group Public Citizen filed a petition with the FDA, calling for a Crestor recall to be issued due to the potential risk of health problems with the drug and the availability of alternatives on the market. The FDA has not heeded the request, and Crestor has not been removed from the market.


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