Statins & Side Effects: Concerns, Incidents, Warning Signs

If you are taking statins, you should continue doing so. If you have concerns about the medication you are taking or you are experiencing side effects, you should contact your doctor immediately. You should not stop taking statins without your doctor’s recommendation.

After high levels of cholesterol were linked to heart disease, pharmaceutical companies immediately started looking for cholesterol lowering medication to satisfy the market. The most successful category of medication that entered the market to decrease cholesterol levels were Statins or more precisely, scientifically correct name: HMG-CoA (Beta-Hydroxy-Beta-Methyl-Glutaryl-CoA) redustase inhibitors, a drug that interferes with the action of an enzyme needed to turn fats into lipoproteins & cholesterol, or in more simple terms, reduces your body’s ability to produce cholesterol. The first two statins (simvastatin, pravastatin) appeared in 1986. Side effects of cholesterol medications have been a concern from the very beginning, in fact some cholesterol medications (ex. Fibrates & Fibric Acid Derivatives) were linked to significant evidence of higher risk of developing cancer and for that reason are rarely prescribed. The risk of developing cancer due to the use of statins is still being debated, the FDA however considers them safe. Unfortunately, the history shows that some FDA approved cholesterol medications have had some fatal or non-fatal serious consequences (Baycol© cerivastatin triggered kidney failure cases; Zetia©, Vytorin© scandal with higher death rate & links to cancers; recent case of muscle damage associated with high doses of Zocor© branded simvastatin; Crestor© is also being closely watched for the risk of myopathy). Therefore, the best efforts must be taken to control cholesterol levels with exercise & diet before taking stains or any other cholesterol lowering medication.

Baycol© Incident
In 1997 Bayer© introduced Baycol© cerivastatin, which by 2001 was taken off the market because of the link to at least 31 deaths from rhabdomyolysis, one of the possible side effects from taking statin medication. At least 100 deaths were linked to Baycol© by 2007 & thousands of other non-fatal but serious cases. Bayer© has settled at least 3000 lawsuits by 2004 associated with Baycol© cerivastatin.

Generally speaking most of the medications are put through studies that last for about five years and for a five-year span numbers show statins to be safe to use, though there is a slight evidence of higher risk of cancer development, it is insignificant compared to the assumed benefits associated with the medication. Unfortunately, for conditions like cancer a five-year study may not be very revealing, it usually takes well over 10 years for such conditions to develop. Other serious possible side effects of statins are rhabdomyolysis (which can result in kidney failure) & liver damage. For the most part between the specialists the debate is about how widespread statins are prescribed and many think that the medication is grossly overused. Moreover, certain studies show that for people over the age of 70 and for women in general the medication may not be very effective or is not effective at all at preventing heart disease or heart attacks. 2004 ATP III Update (Adult Treatment Panel) has sparked even more criticism with the new recommendations of who is a candidate for cholesterol-lowering drugs, with LDL level recommendations practically impossible to reach without taking some kind of medication. Many brought to attention that eight of the nine members of the panel had financial ties to pharmaceutical companies that produce cholesterol-lowering medication. Well, I’ll let you make your own decision on that.


Serious Statin Side Effects That Must Be Reported to Your Doctor Immediately

  • Muscle pain, tenderness
  • Muscle loss
  • Protein in the urine (swelling in the feet, hands,  abdomen, or face may indicate this or urine may look foamy in the toilet)
  • Memory loss
  • Depression
  • Liver functioning tests show persistent abnormal results
  • Abnormally low platelets

Many of these have no symptoms or signs in the early stages, so laboratory tests are necessary to determine them. Therefore it’s a good practice to go for checkups regularly while taking statin medications.  Any of the above side effects should be reported to the doctor immediately, no waiting!

Always tell your doctor if you take or you are planning to take other medication while you are on statins, interactions of certain medications with statins may lead to serious consequences.

If you’ve experienced serious side effects from statins report them to the FDA


Statin Moments


FDA Approved Medications That Caused Death

  • 1991
    Halcion© (triazolan)
  • 1997
    Fen-pehn© (diet)
  • 1998
    Terfenadine© (antihistamine)
  • 2000
    Rezulin© (troglitazone)
    Lotronex© (alosetron)
    Propulsid© (cisapride)
  • 2001
    Baycol© (cerivastatin)
    Organon© (rapacuronium)
  • 2004
    Vioxx© (rofexoxib)
  • 2005
    Adderall XR© (amphetamine)
    Tysabri© (natalizumab)