Statins shown to cause fatigue

June 11, 2012

In a study of more than 1,000 adults, researchers at the University of California, San Diego, found that individuals taking cholesterol-lowering statin drugs are more likely than non-users to experience decreased energy, fatigue upon exertion, or both. The researchers suggest that these findings should be taken into account by doctors when weighing risk versus benefit in prescribing statins.

Statin drugs are among the best selling and most widely used on the market. Recently, increasing attention has focused on statins' side effects, particularly their effect on exercise. While some patients have reported or exercise intolerance when placed on statins, had not previously addressed occurrence of fatigue-with-exertion or impaired energy in patients on statins relative to placebo.

In the June 11 issue of Beatrice Golomb, MD, PhD, associate professor of medicine at UC San Diego School of Medicine, and colleagues present randomized trial data which show that these side effects were significantly greater in persons placed on statins than those on a placebo.

More than 1,000 adults from San Diego were randomly allocated to identical capsules with placebo, or one of two statins at relatively low potencies: pravastatin (Pravachol) at 40mg, or simvastatin () at 20mg – chosen as the most water-soluble and most fat-soluble of the statins, at doses expected to produce similar LDL ("bad cholesterol") reduction. According to the researchers, the cholesterol reduction would be similar to that expected with atorvastatin (Lipitor) at 10mg, or rosuvastatin (Crestor) at 2.5-5mg.

Persons with heart disease and diabetes were excluded. Neither subjects nor investigators knew which agent the subject had received. Subjects rated their energy and fatigue with exertion relative to baseline, on a five-point scale, from "much worse" to "much better."

Those placed on statins were significantly more likely than those on to report worsening in energy, fatigue-with-exertion, or both. Both statins contributed to the finding, though the effect appeared to be stronger in those on simvastatin. (Simvastatin led to significantly greater cholesterol reduction.)

"Side effects of statins generally rise with increasing dose, and these doses were modest by current standards," said Golomb. "Yet occurrence of this problem was not rare – even at these doses, and particularly in women."

The magnitude of the effect observed can be seen in the study findings; for example, 4 of 10 treated women on cited worsened energy or exertional fatigue; 2 in 10 cited worsening in both, or rated either one as "much worse"; and 1 in 10 study participants rated energy and exertional fatigue as "much worse."

"Energy is central to quality of life. It also predicts interest in activity," said Golomb. "Exertional fatigue not only predicts actual participation in exercise, but both lower energy and greater exertional fatigue may signal triggering of mechanisms by which statins may adversely affect cell health."

For these reasons, the researchers state that decreases in energy, and increases in exertional fatigue on statins represent important findings which should be taken into account in risk-benefit determinations for statins. According to Golomb, this is particularly true for groups for whom evidence does not support mortality benefit on statins – such as most patients without heart disease, and women and those over 70 or 75, even if is present.

Explore further: Cholesterol-lowering drug linked to sleep disruptions

Related Stories

Statins shown to lower blood pressure

April 14, 2008

A large, randomized drug trial has shown for the first time that statin drugs result in a modest, but significant, reduction in blood pressure. These effects may contribute to the reduced risk of stroke and cardiovascular ...

Statins linked with lower depression risk in heart patients

February 24, 2012

Patients with heart disease who took cholesterol-lowering statins were significantly less likely to develop depression than those who did not, in a study by Mary Whooley, MD, a physician at the San Francisco VA Medical Center ...

FDA adds new safety information to statin drugs

February 28, 2012

(AP) -- Federal health officials are adding new safety warnings about risks of memory loss and elevated blood sugar to statins, a widely prescribed group of cholesterol-lowering medications.

Recommended for you

Treatment options for opioid addiction are expanding

August 10, 2016

In the past two decades, the devastation associated with opioid addiction has escaped the relative confines of the inner city and extended to suburban and rural America. Due in large part to the proliferation of prescription ...

Can exercise be replaced with a pill?

October 2, 2015

Everyone knows that exercise improves health, and ongoing research continues to uncover increasingly detailed information on its benefits for metabolism, circulation, and improved functioning of organs such as the heart, ...

FDA bolsters warnings about class of antibiotics

July 26, 2016

(HealthDay)—The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Tuesday that it's strengthening label warnings on a class of antibiotics called fluoroquinolones because the drugs can lead to disabling side effects, including ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.