Side Effects of Cholesterol-Lowering Statin Drugs
Are There Side Effects of Statin Drugs?
Most people who take statin drugs tolerate them very well. But some people experience side effects.
The most common statin side effects include:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Flushing of the skin
- Muscle aches, tenderness, or weakness (myalgia)
- Nausea or vomiting
- Abdominal cramping or pain
- Bloating or gas
Statins also carry warnings that memory loss, mental confusion, high blood sugar, and type 2 diabetes are possible side effects. It's important to remember that statins may also interact with other medications you take.
Which Statin Side Effects Are Serious?
Statins are associated with a few rare, but potentially serious, side effects including:
Myositis, inflammation of the muscles. The risk of muscle injury increases when certain other medications are taken with statins. For example, if you take a combination of a statin and a fibrate -- another cholesterol-reducing drug -- the risk of muscle damage increases greatly compared to someone who takes a statin alone.
Elevated levels of CPK, or creatine kinase, a muscle enzyme that when elevated, can cause muscle pain, mild inflammation, and muscle weakness. This condition, though uncommon, can take a long time to resolve.
Rhabdomyolysis, extreme muscle inflammation and damage. With this condition, muscles all over the body become painful and weak. The severely damaged muscles release proteins into the blood that collect in the kidneys. The kidneys can become damaged trying to eliminate a large amount of muscle breakdown caused by statin use. This can ultimately lead to kidney failure or even death. Fortunately, rhabdomyolysis is extremely rare. It occurs in less than one in 10,000 people taking statins.
Statin Warning Signs
If you experience any unexplained joint or muscle pain, tenderness, or weakness while taking statins, you should call your doctor immediately. Pregnant women or those with active or chronic liver disease should not use statins.
If you take a statin drug, tell your doctor about any over-the-counter or prescription drugs, herbal supplements, and vitamins you are currently taking or plan on taking.
Which Statins Are Approved for Use in the U.S.?
The statin medications that are approved for use in the U.S. include:
- Mevacor or Altocor
Since their arrival on the market, statins have been among the most prescribed drugs in the U.S. with about 17 million users.