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Do You Know the Side Effects of Statin Drugs?

The benefits may not outweigh the side effects

Cholesterol-reducing drugs such as Lipitor, Crestor and Zocor are associated with a higher risk of developing Type II diabetes, especially in older women and those already at risk for developing the illness because of lifestyle factors or genetics.

Serious Side Effects

  • Muscle problems
    The Mayo Clinic reports that the most common side effect of statins is muscle pain. In addition to weakness and pain, statins have caused a much more serious muscle problem known as rhabdomyolysis. This condition causes severe muscle plain and damage to muscle tissue, kidney failure, liver damage and even death. Although the risk is slight, the higher the dose of statins, the greater the risk of significant muscle problems.
  • Memory problems
    As of 2012, The FDA has required labels for statin drugs to include information about the risk of experiencing significant memory loss and confusion when taking the drugs. Statins apparently do not cause permanent memory and cognitive damage; the symptoms of memory loss abate if the patient stops taking the drugs.
  • Liver damage
    Although rare, liver problems can develop. Before you start taking statins, your doctor should require a liver enzyme test at the start of your statin regimen. If, after taking statins for a while, you experience fatigue, loss of appetite, abdominal pain or symptoms of jaundice, you should contact your doctor.
  • Digestive problems
    Some people taking statins experience digestive problems after taking a statin. The Mayo Clinic recommends taking the medication in the evening with a meal to reduce this side effect.
  • Rash or flushing
    This side effect may be reduced by taking aspirin before taking statin medication.

Who is at risk?

These side effects, as well as the increased risk of Type II diabetes, are more likely to occur in people who are taking multiple medications or are:

  • Taking more than one cholesterol-lowering drug
  • Being a woman
  • Having a smaller body frame
  • Being age 65 or older
  • Having liver or kidney disease
  • Having diabetes
  • Drinking more than two alcoholic drinks each day for men under 65 and more than one each day for women and older men

Recent research suggests that many of these side effects cease when statin use is discontinued. It turns out that almost half of patients who receive statin therapy discontinue it for some reason. Side effects such as those listed above are one of the reasons this could occur.