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Statin Side Effects Linked to Muscle Damage: Study

Data from a new study on cholesterol-fighting drugs suggest that side effects of statins, a class of medications that includes popular medications like Crestor, Lipitor and Zocor, could increase the risk of muscle damage.

The study, published in the July 7 issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, found that 10% to 15% of people taking statin-based medications began experiencing at least minor muscle aches and weakness. Biopsies of some of those patients revealed damage to muscle fibers that could continue even after they stopped taking the medications. They also found that in some cases, the muscle damage from statins was not detectable by a commonly-used blood test.

Statins are 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. Statin is used in a number of popular cholesterol controlling drugs, including Crestor, Lipitor, Zocor, Mevacor, Lescol and Pravachol.

In most cases, patients complaining of muscle pain and weakness can be given a simple blood test to check for statin muscle damage. The test looks for an enzyme known as creatin phosphokinase (CPK), which leaks from damaged muscles. However, the new study suggests the test may not be as accurate as originally believed.

Researchers took leg muscle biopsies of 83 patients, 44 of whom had serious and persistent muscle pain, known as myopathy. The biopsies found 25 with muscle damage, but only one had elevated levels of CPK in the blood.

The study sample was too small to determine the rate of serious muscle pain in relation to statins, researchers said, and they do not think it affects a large number of users. The researchers state that anyone not experiencing muscle aches and pains were likely unaffected.

Statins have been linked to muscle damage before. Studies have found that about 1 in 10,000 statin users develop a sometimes-fatal muscle condition known as rhabdomyolysis. The rare condition causes skeletal muscle damage and releases myoglobin into the bloodstream. The myoglobin can cause severe kidney failure or death.

In 2002 and 2008, the FDA issued warnings about the increased risk of rhabdomylosis when statins are used in combination with heart medication containing amiodarone. In 2001, the statin-based drug Baycol was removed from the market due to its links with rhabdomyolysis.

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27 comments

  1. Priscilla Reply

    I took Lipitor in 1998. I have suffered muscle damage in my right leg.
    Have to step up using my left leg. Had 3 MRIs, a muscle bioposy. My
    creatin phosphokinase (CPK) went from 119 to 1191. As of this date, my CPK is still high at 797.

  2. David Reply

    I have had hip and leg muscle pain for over two years, I thought it was
    arthritis. Recently my Doctor took me off of Zocor andn the pain stopped in two days. I haven’t had test for my muscles.

  3. michele Reply

    my 14 year old daughter died three years after being overdosed on the antibiotic Vancomyocin, due to a nurse and the hospital not properly handling her medications, trough blood level readings correctly and discharging her from the hospital on the same day that she had 2 fevers of 102.7 and later a fever of 104, I even have the autopsy reports that show the lethal dosage of the Vanco should have never exceeded 15-20 mg. and hers was 97.5 when I rushed her back to the hospital by E.M.S. on Labor day night. she unfortunately died 2 1/2 days later. The autopsy reports even confirm these findings and I can not get an attorney in Kansas to handle the medical malpractice suit. I have been carrying the case hrough court myself as a Pro-Se claimant. She was my only child, and my parents only grandchild. If anyone out there knows of any lawyer who would have the heart and stamina to take on tis case PLEASE let me know.

  4. Patty Reply

    I started taking the generic brand of Zocor this month. After 10 days of sever fatigue, muscle pain in biceps and calves, twitching, sometimes my leg would jerk suddenly about 8″ while relaxing, nausea after eating, sudden sleeping problems, and constipation bouts, I am usually regular, I started looking on-line to see if these were symptoms from statin use. I was appalled to see what I found as testimonies and case studies for these drugs! I am a very healthy 58-year-old women, energetic, active sports sailor and athletic person, strong for my age. I weigh 126 lbs, am 5’4 and have been slim all my life. People think I am in my early 40’s. My cholesterol is 250-260 with good HDL and low LDL and triglycerides. After reading so much about how bad these drugs are I stopped immediately. I take no prescription drugs, never had to. I already feel my energetic self, slept much better last night but still have a few muscle aches. (Weird, pinpoint sharp pains on corresponding sides of my arms and legs) How can doctors give this drug and try to say any of these symptoms are ok. Sounds like people my age and younger suddenly become very unhealthy and are prescribed more and more drugs to counteract the side effects of statins and have further decline in health and blame it on old age! This is a HUGE, DANGEROUS SCAM. I have recently had all the tests done to see if my heart is healthy and there are no “visible signs’ of artery plaque. I have had this kind of cholesterol for at least 10 yrs, when I started checking, but I refuse to become instantly unhealthy and slowly deteriorate from muscle damage all over my body. Isn’t the heart a giant MUSCLE? These drugs could be killing Americans slowly but surely, and truly making billions for the drug industry. While I am sure many people have dangerously high bad cholesterol, I would rather keep my cholesterol where it is (I’ll exercise more) and JUST SAY NO TO STATINS!

  5. Pamela Reply

    I was given Lipitor after I had chest pains 2 years ago, I was switched to Crestor when I started getting severe aches, pains, fatigue, muscle cramps and light headedness. When we switched medical plans, I was switched to Zicor. My pain became so severe, I was beginning to believe I was dying. When my doctor took blood tests for muscle enzymes, mine were triple what they should be. I was taken off the statins. I have not had a day without pain since. I belive my muscle damage is permanent. These drugs are dangerous. I have been damaged for life.

  6. kenneth Reply

    There are many dangerous medical procedures out there.

  7. Deb Reply

    When I was initally put on Lipitor I had some muscle pain. My doctor advised that it would pass and to continue the medication. I had to change doctors due to INSURANCE change, and subsquently developed the flu…so my first visit with the new doctor was for URI, muscle pain, fever, etc. I went on to have over 1 year of poor health with the same symtoms over and over. I suffered from fatique, muscle pain and weakness, aching joints to name a few…my doctor felt these were all residual effects from the multiple URI’s. I saw a new doctor today that was covering my current doctor while on vacation. I again had the muscle pain, flu like symtoms, sore throat, etc. He advised me to stop the lipitor…at first I thought what quack is this…then I went home and read all the stories of people also suffering. The time line matches up with everything that has happened to me this past year. So the quack may be my hero. I am hoping I recover with no long term effects. Lipitor should be required to reimburse anyone that has taken their product. My co-pay alone has been $45.00 a month since 2003. I thought I had some kind of immune disorder.

  8. Julie Reply

    My Mom was on a statin for 6 months, even though her doctor knew she was allergic to statins. She is 79 years old, she used to drive and was energetic and alert before she took the statin. She is now in an assisted living home (moved her from her home of 45 years) and needs help bathing, dressing, getting out and into bed, and also up from a chair, and has trouble with her bowels and thinking. Her muscles are so weak that she cannot even walk that far anymore. Her doctor does not believe in stain damage, but think he might be coming around, he is having her muscles tested. I took care of her for months, we’ve been to numerous doctors, and they concluded it’s all in her head. I am sick to my stomach about this, it all comes down to money and how much they make from statins, it’s a tragedy, we are a drugged society.

  9. dan Reply

    my story is somewhat different….i am 63 and my father, who died recently, was almost 99/ most of my family are or were all in their 90’s. i had a stroke and when i was released from the hospital, one of the drugs i was prescribed was lipitor, at 80 cc. i kept saying that something was wrong, to digress, the stroke left me not being able to complete a sentence. my brain was jumbled and confused. i kept on lipitor for several months and the my doctor, because i could not take it anymore, changed my to simvastatin, also at 80 cc. nothing changed, i continued to have weaken muscles throughout my body. my doctor cut my dosage to 40 cc. after several more months, it continued to deteriorate further. my doctor lowered to dosage again to 20 cc, which was to lower limit in in order to get the cholesterol down. no change again….now 10 months had passed and i went off the statin drugs. my doctor, who has treated thousands of peoplesaid that the weakness would go away when the drug was out of my system. this did not happen. it turns out that the only muscles i still have are all that i have. i cannot make any new muscles or muscle mass. the cells are dead. i also have a rare genetic predisposition to stroking….called anti phosfololipic anti body. excuse the spelling, which i found out about just prior to my stroke. i now take coumadin and baby aspirin which makes me cold all the time since my blood is being speeded up.oh, i almost forgot….i am also diabetic, which i found out about after the stroke…..i am not currently in insukin…..i am keeping my weight down, exercising and eating much better now. …dan

  10. Richard Reply

    After reading these comments, I believe the muscle pain and weakness in my ankles, knees, and back may be related to the Zocor I have been taking for the last 2 years. It may also explian why I am unable to get a good night of sleep. I have been tested for arthritis and nobody seems to have an answer for the pain I am having. I have constant pain.

  11. becky Reply

    I have been taking zocore for about 3 years and last year I was diegnosed with diabeties, my ankles aew week now, and I have back pain, head hurts all the time and I don’t have any energy at all.
    so I stopped taking it for a bout a year and had to have a stent put in
    now I am scared that that might have been the reason why ,
    if your heart is a muscle then that would make iy so.what are we going to do ? if you cant trust the doctors than who.becky

  12. Ruby Reply

    I have been taking Zocor and generic Zocor (Simvastatin) for 10+ years. It has always caused severe constipation, however, a few years ago, my legs, feet, neck, shoulders and arms began swelling and aching so bad I could hardly walk or use the computer mouse (which is required for my job), and I had trouble sleeping. I told my doctor about my symptoms and he didn’t seem very concerned. He wrote me a prescription for tramadol to help with the pain and another prescription for trazodone to help me sleep. I have never been one to take a lot of medication but I started taking these because I was miserable. The tramadol didn’t really help the pain very much so I mostly stopped taking it and continued with Advil, which for me, is a miracle drug. The trazodone does help me sleep, but I wake up all groggy and tired and I feel hung over. Last fall I heard about the possibility that the Zocor could be causing my muscle aches. I took myself off the Zocor and within 30 days, the swelling subsided. I still have a lot of muscle pain especially in my legs, shoulder and arms but just relieving the swelling helped. High cholesterol runs in my family and I worry about being able to keep it under control, but the side effects of statins are so severe that I can’t tolerate them anymore. I agree with some of the other folks that it’s all about the money for the doctors and the pharmaceutical companies. God knows our legislators are not going to do anything to solve the problem. They might lose their policital campaign contributors and well, that just won’t work!

  13. Becky Reply

    I have been on statins for about 5 or 6 years with increased muscle pain in my legs and hips. I was unable to walk when my friend told me about her sister’s reaction to statins. I checked it out on the internet and had so many people saying the same thing I was saying. I immediately stopped taking Lipitor and got better in about 3 or 4 days. Doc put me back on another one and I developed the same problems, I quit them again and the pain subsided in about 3 months. Then he put me back on some that were not supposed to contain statins, but did, when I got the symtoms again, I quit again, but the pain has never gone away and it’s been about a year. I now have numbness in my foot, hips and thigh if I walk too much and much pain early in the morning and in the evening. I hope the word gets out and NO ONE else has to endure this pain and suffering.

  14. Dean Reply

    I had been on statins (Mevacor) for about 6 months. I went to my doctor what seemed to be every other week or so complaining of back pains, joint pain, flu-like symptoms, malaise, irritability, sleeplessness… I got so depressed because I had no energy to do anything. I am a 41 year old firefighter who normally leads an active life style until 6 or 7 months ago. I found myself gaining weight due to the lack of energy and depression that followed. I decided that I had enough and went on a diet. Nothing too drastic; I simply controlled my intake of only healthy foods. It was when I incorporated exercise and weights into the mix that led me to where I am today. The first day I lifted a few weights I was in excruciating pain within hours after lifting. The pain got worse and didn’t begin to subside for about 5 days. I began researching the Lovastatin (Mevacor) that I was taking when I was shocked to see all the signs and symptoms I was experiencing. I spoke with several co-workers who are also Registered Nurses and they immediately suggested that I may be experiencing Rhabdomyolysis. I made an appointment to see the doctor the next morning when I got off duty and he initially down played all my concerns. He agreed to do blood work and while my CPK came back within normal limits, my liver is in failure (AST-212, ALT-123) and my Aldolase is through the roof (52.4). I am going to a neurologist on Monday to see about any permanent muscle damage that has occurred. Mean while I took myself off the statin the day after I lifted the weights and experienced all the pain. I now take Red Yeast Rice pills and Fish Oil pills to naturally decrease my cholesterol. The pain in my lower joints has subsided somewhat but it is still extremely painful to walk first thing in the morning. I also feel that I have no strength anymore. I pray that this will all subside completely with time. I can’t express enough to anyone thinking of taking these awful medication to please reconsider the alternatives. I have since been sharing my story with my co-workers and am shocked to hear how many are taking them (all different brands of Statins). It seems that all are experiencing different degrees of joint and muscle pain. as well as other symptoms like insomnia and irritability. Many of their physicians like mine have dismissed the symptoms as a sign of getting older. Don’t be so quick to do the same. RESEARCH the drugs and make a truly educated decision.

  15. anon Reply

    Be careful Dean….Red Yeast Rice is a natural statin, and will continue to cause the same damage as the drug does.
    Fish oil and fibre will safely lower cholesterol safely.

  16. Dorthea Reply

    I have read all of the comments everyone is making about the statin drugs’ side effects and I have always agreed with everyone how dangerous they are to the muscles. I have never taken a statin drug in my life and I have all the symptoms everyone is describing. I have had a total of 7 arthroscopic surgeries (5 on my left knee and 2 on my right knee) over 30 years. Unfortunately I was born with bad knees. In November, 2008 my right knee got so bad I could barely drive or walk. I had a total knee replacement. The minute I woke up, I new it was a bad decision, but I didn’t know what else to do. Over the past 2 years I have gained 20 pounds because I am unable to do the things I once loved to do like one mile walks, gardening, and bicycling. I wake up with pain in both knees which causes both hips to hurt and my lower back. I awake with both ankles hurting with arthritis which I never had before and nerve damage galore. I have numbness in both feet throughout the big toes and balls. I feel like I have shin splints every single day. I have terrible pain in my quad muscles. I walk with a bad wobble. It’s very difficult to sit and then get up to stand.I feel humilated in public when people stare at me. I strongly believe the anesthesia is the blame for most of this and the cutting of nerves from all the micro surgeries I have had. We are guinea pigs for the new anesthesia. The try and true anesthesia is going going gone while new ones are being made within the past 10 to 15 years and some newer than that. We don’t know what we are given when we’re put to sleep for minor surgeries all the way up to the serious surgeries.At 58 years old, I have drastically deteriorated since the right knee replacement. All of the meds such as Vicodin and morphine does damage too. Today’s modern medicine-a pill for everything and replacements for the common joints will be the early death of most of us because it is a billion dollar health industry and climbing because a lot of people will have chronic nerve damage as well a muscle damage and weakness. That is the name of the game and we are all going through it. I too am going to try and do what I can to seek natural alternative methods to the most common problems in our country such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, etc. Take care everyone. I have heard that GNC sells a product called Instaflex. It is suppose to be very good for arthritic pain. I have not tried it yet, but I may do so very soon to replace my dangerous nsaid meds.

  17. Evelyn Reply

    I took Zocor for approximately 5 months and developed generalized muscle weakness, more prominent in my legs. I went off Zocor and upper extremity muscle weakness improved but lower extremity weakness and twitching continued. I have now been diagnosed with ALS or Lou Gerhrig’s Disease. The feeling in my muscles is the same as when I was taking the Zocor. I probably won’t live to see it, but Zocor needs to be removed from the market! Mayo Clinic did a study that looked at a correlation between Zocor and ALS with no positive results. Sometimes where there is smoke there is fire. I am an RN so I feel that my assessment has validity.

  18. Kendall Reply

    Frist i started getting tired fast and weak.I started having trouble breathing and muscle pains. I had to go to the emergence room at the VA medical center for a very bad rash and itching.I started urinating 7 to 8 times in the night and get numbness in my hands.Now i have a chronic kidney decease and i go to see doctors all over the place to try and get the health care that I need to combat my kidney decease.I need all the help I can get.One of my doctors keep saying take the simvastatin and i think that it is making me sicker everytime take it.I really pray and hope that god take care of me.

  19. william Reply

    on lipator 20mg for over 10 years. physically active . work out and run. in last3 weeks experiencing numbness on ball of lf. and rt. foot including toes. feels like i have a tightness on toes . mat stop lipator to see if symptons stop

  20. Kathleen Reply

    My father died in August 2011 from the cholesterol drug Zetia. The doctors and hospital covered up the cause of his muscle damage and he suffered: bed sores, severe malnutrition, sepsis, respiratory failure,and death while being treated by Marshall Hospital in Placerville Ca. BEWARE: DOCTORS COVER UP FOR EACH OTHER AND ATTORNEYS DO NOT TAKE CASES FOR PEOPLE OVER 80 YEARS OLD.

  21. Donna Reply

    I am 59 years old, 5’2″ 130 # Was started in Simvastatin earlier this year due elevated cholesterol…My HDL was high…not a cardiovascular risk..Now that I look back on things….I started have night time legs cramps getting progressively worse since I started the drug. Not just in my calves..I started to sleep with a heating pad under my legs because often it was only application of heat that would stop the cramps and allow me to sleep. The cramps were not in typical places. Tried quinine water..On 9/30/12 I awoke with bilateral cramps in both calves. had to slide out of bed on my abdomen to try to dorsiflex my feet to break the cramps. I was holding on the bedpost when all of a sudden, my leg gave way and I fell over backward. ER visit on a backboard CT scans showed no factures. After 4 weeks of increasing and excruciating pain, a MRI revealed a 50% compression fracture of L3 Had kyphoplasty and am now recovering…A colleague asked me what medications I was taking and told me about the leg cramps with statins. I stopped right away and have no more cramps…thank GOD I am not very happy..The location of my fall could have been against the wall and resulted in worse injuries or death…

  22. john Reply

    Hi All,
    Permanent muscle damage now after being off statins for 2.7 years. See every hour on the hour each night, so these statins have ruined my life. Was a very active 67 year old with no health problems, never smoked/ never o/weight good blood pressure but slightly elevated cholesterol readings. A cardiologist in Queensland Australia prescribed 40 mg of Lipitor for 2 months, and when I told him of very severe muscle pain and lack of sleep, Dr Kannan Rajappa prescribed 40mg of Crestor, Crestor dosage sheet states 10mg starting dose. I did not have my lipids checked during this Crestor period, and at nearly 4 months I awoke at midnight with the most pain in body I have ever experienced. This is where the damage occurred. Doctors do not listen to the patient when they are told of the muscle pain they are experiencing, THIS TO ME IS CRIMINAL BEHAVIOUR.

  23. Tony Reply

    I was on statins for about 10 months. When one affected me, they changed me to another. It turned out they all affected me no matter which one I took. I was prescribed them because my cholesterol level was a “little” high and my blood pressure was also “a little high” . Guess what my cholesterol level never budged and I found my condition was hereditary. If you can imagine someone like me who was a keep fit fanatic and a weight lifter (frightened youngsters with my strength and ability)who can hardly walk now and is weak as hell..no strength. Yes I quit taking these devil pills, had I known what was going to happen I would have said NO from the beginning. Now I am taking “PLANT STEROLS” (natural) which have lowered my cholesterol, and lowered my blood pressure to the point that the doctor is saying “amazing, what are you doing. Do they want to know? NO, it is alternative medicine. I am now hoping that Q10 supplement will help my body to function better, but think now, 3 years down the line may be too late

  24. Michael Reply

    Hi. I live in Sydney, NSW Australia.
    I was on Statins in 2008 and had a good job with the Australian Federal Government in Taxation. While taking the Statins, I had a muscle injury (with no other previous muscle injuries apart from Hernia operations in 1995). From the muscle injury (ruptured calf muscle) I developed a life threatening blood clot which required blood thinning injections. Do I have any Legal recourse? Regards, Michael.

  25. John Reply

    Hi All,
    I had had disturbed sleep since taking a Statin prescription of Lipitor 40mg from my cardiologist Dr Kannan Rajappa in March 2010. I informed him of this and he ignored my plea for help, and he prescribed 40mg of Crestor which I took for nearly 5 months but ended up with extreme muscle pain at midnight one night, the most debilitating pain I have ever had,.this to me is criminal behavior by the doctor.
    The good news, after nearly 5 years of what I thought was permanent muscle damage appears to have been cured, and confirmed by my Garmin sleep monitor
    The product I have taken is Graviola, 2 capsules daily, which has returned my life to normal after 5 years of lacking energy, because of disturbed sleep. Graviola is a very powerful immune system booster not known or endorsed by the CORRUPT medical fraternity.
    John

  26. Andy Reply

    I’ve been taking Lipitor for about 14 years now. Two years ago I had cataract surgery in both eyes. Last year I had two nerve surgeries. This year I have developed pain in my knees and weakness when standing. Recently I have developed what seems to be a chronic pain i my left shoulder when raising and bringing it cross body. Now after several weeks on anti-inflammatory drugs the same pain seems to be starting in my right arm.

    I’ve read this type of pain can be caused by Lipitor but wonder due to the long term prior to seeing symptoms. Nervous with this problem and taking Lipitor and additional research I’ve done does seem to point to long term side effects of Lipitor.

  27. Marie Reply

    I was on Astoravastin 40mg and now have necognizing autoimmune myopathy. It has been 8 months since I stopped taking it but I still have it. I will be starting steroid treatment soon. Are there any lawyers that would take this kind of case?

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