Statin strain

I just can’t help myself. When any negative study comes out about statin medications, I feel compelled to write about it.

I mean, someone has to spread the word that these medications shouldn’t be handed out like candy. There is no drug on the planet that doesn’t come with a cost. (And I don’t mean the financial cost, either–though that’s nothing to sniff at.)

Statins are no exception to this rule. And as we’re beginning to find out, they’re actually among the worst offenders.

Take the results of this latest study, for example. It compared just under 7,000 statin users to the same number of non-users. Analysis showed that statin treatment is linked to a 19 percent higher risk of musculoskeletal injury of any kind.

This included a 13 percent higher risk of dislocations, strains, and sprains, specifically. And a nine percent higher risk of pain. Other noteworthy statin-related trends included a 7 percent higher risk of osteoarthritis.

And that’s just what this study found. Who knows how these results translate to the statin-taking population at large. Especially among long-time users.

According to the authors, these findings spark some serious concerns. Mainly because so many “experts” now advocate putting healthy young patients on statins in order to prevent heart disease.

Needless to say, you won’t find me in these ranks. I try to take my patients off of these medications as quickly as possible. They have far too many serious side effects. And the fact is, plain old diet and exercise do more good–and for much longer–than statins ever possibly could.

It’s also worth mentioning that most of these statin patients–nearly 75 percent–were on simvastatin. A third of them were also taking maximum dosages of their drugs. (In the case of simivastatin, this dosage would be 80 mg.)

And yet, dosages in this range are restricted in this country due to concerns over–you guessed it!–muscle damage.

Not that most people know that–hence the lack of public outcry. But now you know.

I test every patient who is on a statin medication for muscle damage by using a very simple blood test called, CPK. If you’re taking a statin drug, ask your doctor for that test as soon as possible. Normal CPK levels are between 10-120 micrograms per liter (mcg/L).

And if you encounter any resistance, just tell him about this study. Or better yet, find a new doctor.

Call me dramatic, but prescribing statin drugs to your patients without a really compelling reason–and frankly, I have yet to find one–should be considered medical malpractice. Because if that’s not professional negligence, I don’t know what is.

Statins and musculoskeletal conditions, arthropathies, and injuries. JAMA Intern Med 2013; DOI:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.6184.