Statins are drugs that are commonly prescribed to lower cholesterol. It’s estimated about one-quarter of all Americans over the age of 45 with high cholesterol is prescribed a statin to avoid a heart attack or stroke. They are generally thought of as safe, but researchers have linked these drugs to musculoskeletal complications such as sprains, strains, arthritis or muscle pain, especially when the user is physically active.
A retrospective cohort study conducted at a VA hospital in Dallas, Texas divided patients into two groups – statin users and nonusers. In all, there were more than 46,000 participants divided into the two groups, 13,000 users and 32,000 nonusers.
Researchers tracked the statin-users for about five years beginning in 2005. Among the findings – 87 percent in the statin group developed a muscle or joint problem. Among the group of non-statin users – 85 percent developed muscular or skeletal problems.
Muscle pain was reported among 73.5 percent of statin users compared to 71.5 percent of non-users. Dislocations, sprains and strains occurred among 35 percent of statin-users and 32.5 percent of those not taking statins.
The study concludes that musculoskeletal conditions, injuries, and pain were more common among statin users.
These numbers translate to one person per 37 that can expect to be treated for a muscle sprain or strain, while one among 58 to users will be treated for joint or muscle pain, according to Reuters.
Patients are encouraged to keep taking the drugs and not to be too concerned about these findings. A doctor can just discontinue the use of statins if problems develop.
This is not the first news that complications may arise from taking these cholesterol-lowering drugs. In February of last year, the FDA required the statin drug labels be updated to include a warning about the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and the risk of memory loss.
The label change applied to the most popular drugs such as Lipitor (atorvastatin), Crestor (rosuvastatin), Zocor (simvastatin) and Vytorin (simvastatin/ezetimibe) after the agency received reports from doctors and patients.
Ironically, it is diabetes that presents an increased risk for cardiovascular problems, the same condition statins are prescribed to treat.