Cholesterol Drugs: The Downside to Statin

There are millions of people taking cholesterol drugs in the United States every year. Statins are known as HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors, an enzyme involved in the synthesis of cholesterol especially in the liver. They are typically used to treat hyperlipidemia and are most effective in lowering LDL cholesterol. In addition to lowering cholesterol levels, statins also produce some serious side effects that are worth knowing about.

A study published by Dartmouth University used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) and found that about 19 million people in the United States took statins in 2007. The same year, IMS Health reported a total of 200 million prescriptions for cholesterol drugs were written, generating over $34 billion in sales in 2007, and a quarter of a trillion dollars since statins were introduced 20 years ago.

With such high revenue and the number of prescriptions climbing each year, it is more necessary than ever to look at the adverse effects of the drugs being prescribed to you. Following are some side effects that can be caused by these cholesterol medications:


Changes in liver function can occur, and should be monitored with blood tests to ensure your liver continues to work well. If function becomes too abnormal, your doctor will stop the drug and your liver should return to normal.


Muscle symptoms are very common with statin drugs, and can become very dangerous. “Myopathy” involves actual damage to muscle tissue where the drug has eaten away at your muscles. If myopathy continues and drugs are not stopped, a very dangerous condition called “rhabdomyolysis” can occur which can be fatal. Risk of these conditions is increased when taking additional cholesterol lowering drugs. For this reason, if you develop new muscle aches or pains, tenderness or feelings of weakness, it is important to inform your doctor immediately.


A study published in 2000 in the American Journal of Medicine reported that statin drugs on average reduce cognition. They concluded this by conducting a placebo test where people of the same cognitive thinking test scores were given either a placebo pill or a statin, and were tested again after a few months. It was found that the group taking statin drugs on average, performed worse on the second test. There are also common complaints of forgetfulness, lack of concentration, or “holes in memory” from patients.


Some people report changes in mood when taking statins. The University of California, San Diego has reported a series of case studies describing several instances of severe irritability arising on statins, resolving when statins were stopped, and returning again when statin consumption was resumed.

So, what can you do about it? First of all, talk to your doctor. If you believe your symptoms are stemming from the statins you’re taking, ask your doctor if you can stop treatment for a couple of months and see if symptoms are reduced. Then try going back on the statin, and see if the symptoms return. Then your choice is whether the need for the drug exceeds the problems caused by the side effects.

Beebe Chiropractic & Wellness Center is located in TigardOR within the Portland Metro area. Dr. Daniel Beebe cares for patients with sports, work & auto injuries, neck pain & lower back pain, headaches & migraines, chronic pain, scoliosis and more. For more information visit

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One comment on “Cholesterol Drugs: The Downside to Statin
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