Tens of millions of Americans are taking cholesterol-lowering drugs—mostly statins—and some “experts” claim that many millions more should be taking them.
I couldn’t disagree more.
Statins are HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors, that is, they act by blocking the enzyme in your liver that is responsible for making cholesterol (HMG-CoA reductase). The fact that statin drugs cause side effects is well established—there are now 900 studies proving their adverse effects, which run the gamut from muscle problems to increased cancer risk.
For starters, reported side effects include:
- Muscle problems, polyneuropathy (nerve damage in the hands and feet), and rhabdomyolysis (a serious degenerative muscle tissue condition)
- Sexual dysfunction
- Immune depression
- Pancreas or liver dysfunction, including a potential increase in liver enzymes
Muscle problems are the best known of statin drugs’ adverse side effects, but cognitive problems and memory loss are also widely reported. A spectrum of other problems, ranging from blood glucose elevations to tendon problems, can also occur. There is evidence that taking statins may even increase your risk for Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Statins currently available on the U.S. market are:
- Advicor (lovastatin with niacin) – Abbott
- Altoprev (lovastatin) – Shionogi Pharma
- Caduet [atorvastatin with amlodipine (Norvasc)] – Pfizer
- Crestor (rosuvastatin) – AstraZeneca
- Lescol (fluvastatin) – Novartis
- Lipitor (atorvastatin) – Pfizer
- Mevacor (lovastatin) – Merck
- Pravachol (pravastatin) — Bristol-Myers Squibb
- Simcor (niacin/imvastatin) – Abbott
- Vytorin (ezetimibe/simvastatin) – Merck/Schering-Plough
- Zocor (simvastatin) – Merck