Statins are a class of drugs designed to block the production of cholesterol by the body, with the effect of lowering a patient’s blood cholesterol levels. According to modern medical mythology, the use of these drugs ultimately lowers the patient’s risk for coronary heart disease.
These drugs are dangerous and have very serious side effects. Many documented reports detail the severe side effects that otherwise healthy people have experienced after taking these drugs. The side effects include:
- Severe muscle cell damage leading to a fatal kidney condition called rhabdomyolysis. The dying skeletal muscle cells release toxic muscle cell components into the general circulation, causing kidney damage. Complications of rhabdomyolysis include acute kidney failure, vascular blood clots, elevated blood potassium levels, and cardiac arrest.
- Permanent and debilitating muscle pain and weakness.
- Neurological damage and cognitive side effects including global transient amnesia, memory loss, learning impairment and confusion.
- Congestive heart failure.
- Elevated liver enzymes, indicating liver damage.
- Statins block the mevalonate metabolic pathway in the body, with the drug companies desired result of blocking cholesterol, but also with the dangerous result of blocking the production of important cell chemicals such as CoQ10, dolichols, and immunomodulation proteins such as NF-kB (Nuclear Factor-kabbaB).
CoQ10 or ubiquinone is the catalyst that drives cell energy production. It acts as a potent antioxidant, and it is critical for the health and function of cell mitochondria. A lack of CoQ10 can cause serious oxidative damage to cellular mitochondria which can result in heart and skeletal muscle damage, and severely limit energy production for the body.
Dr. Peter Langsjoen is a cardiologist and an expert on CoQ10 and the damage that statins cause to CoQ10 in the body. Here’s a telling comment from him in an article on Red Flags Weekly:
“In my practice of 17 years in Tyler, Texas, I have seen a frightening increase in heart failure secondary to statin usage, “statin cardiomyopathy”. Over the past five years, statins have become more potent, are being prescribed in higher doses, and are being used with reckless abandon in the elderly and in patients with “normal” cholesterol levels. We are in the midst of a Coronary Heart Failure epidemic in the US with a dramatic increase over the past decade. Are we causing this epidemic through our zealous use of statins? In large part, I think the answer is yes. We are now in a position to witness the unfolding of the greatest medical tragedy of all time – never before in history has the medical establishment knowingly (Merck & Co., Inc. has two 1990 patents combining CoQ10 with statins to prevent CoQ10 depletion and attendant side effects) created a life-threatening nutrient deficiency in millions of otherwise healthy people, only to then sit back with arrogance and horrific irresponsibility and watch to see what happens. As I see two to three new statin cardiomyopathies per week in my practice, I cannot help but view my once great profession with a mixture of sorrow and contempt.”
You can learn more about Dr. Langsjoen’s work here.
- Statin usage is linked to a condition known as Mitochondrial Myopathy, a condition in which cell mitochondria become damaged, accelerating the aging process, and resulting in permanent disabling weakness. This is a direct result of statin interference in the production of CoQ10 and L-Carnitine.
- Mood changes, including increased hostility, aggression and depression due to the blockage of dolichol production in the mevalonate pathway.
- Statins are also linked to a much greater risk of developing diabetes as a “side effect”. Simvastatin (Zocor) in particular has been shown to interfere with cellular glucose signaling and insulin secretion, and reduce beneficial adiponectin levels.
- Statin side effects can be worse if they are ingested in conjunction with other substances using the same metabolic pathway in the body. Drugs such as cyclosporine, itraconazole, diltiazem and erythromycin, bile acid sequestrants (cholestyramine, colestipol), fibric acid derivatives (bezafibrate, fenofibrate, gemfibrozil), and other substances such as niacin and grapefruit juice are all contraindicated for use with statins.
- There are a host of other side effects, including pancreatitis, an increase in respiratory infections and pneumonia, peripheral neuropathy, skin rashes, sexual dysfunction, headaches, diarrhea, nausea, stomach pain and cramping, heartburn, constipation, and dizziness.
Statins and Cancer
There is a myth in the mainstream media that statins protect against cancer. The more likely truth is that cholesterol protects against cancer, and people with high cholesterol are given statins, so the link is through association, not direct causation.
As would be expected, a metanalysis published in the Journal of American Medical Association states: “In our current meta-analysis, statins did not reduce the incidence of cancer or cancer death.” JAMA. 2006; 295: 74-80.
It is more likely that statins contribute to the development of cancer. Otto Warburg, the Nobel prize-winning physiologist wrote that “cancer is the result of irreversible injury to mitochondrial respiration”. So it’s not surprising that statins would be linked to higher rates of cancer because they block the production of CoQ10, a critical nutrient needed for energy metabolism in the mitochondria of each cell.
In 1996, Newman and Tulley published a meticulous review of the links between cancer and statins in a paper titled The Carcinogenicity of Lipid-Lowering Drugs in the Journal of American Medical Association. (JAMA 27 55:60, 1996). The CARE trial, in particular, resulted in a much higher rate of breast cancer for the women in the treatment group.
Uffe Ravnskov M.D. Ph.D. writes about this in The Cholesterol Myths: Exposing the Fallacy That Saturated Fat and Cholesterol Cause Heart Disease:
“There is good reason to exercise caution in the use of statin drugs because in the CARE study, breast cancer was indeed more common among those who took the drug than in the control group. In the treatment group, twelve women got breast cancer during the trial, whereas only one case in the control group, a difference that is highly significant.”
This same cancer promotion effect was seen in the PROSPER trial, and most recently in the Japan Lipid Intervention Trial. Look at Table 6, and note the Malignancy Relative Risk rates. The lower the cholesterol, the worse the risk.
Irony at its Saddest
Ironically, the reason for taking these dangerous drugs is to “fix” a condition that IS NOT life or health-threatening for most people. Elevated cholesterol levels which are below 260 mg/dl are not a serious health risk, and “cholesterol” is not an appropriate target to treat with dangerous drugs.
The hypothesis that elevated levels of cholesterol cause arterial plaque is misguided and incomplete. Cholesterol is used by the body to repair arterial damage created by inflammatory factors such as elevated insulin levels and low levels of Omega-3 fatty acids. The source of the inflammation should be treated, not the band-aid of the cholesterol repair function.
Cholesterol is not a health threat. It is a substance that is ESSENTIAL to LIFE. Forcibly lowering it with drugs has the consequences noted above because it plays a role in the most critical body functions, including brain cell connection formation, cell integrity, muscle and tendon strength, bile and digestion, vitamin A and D metabolism, protection against infectious organisms, essential fatty acid metabolism, and the manufacture of hormones which regulate the blood levels of salt, water and calcium, and other critical metabolic processes.
Cholesterol is a significant player in the moderation of mood, and low levels have been linked to increased aggression, hostility and depression. In fact, cholesterol is so important to physical life, the body will make cholesterol if you don’t eat enough.
This self-regulation factor makes it very difficult to use a low fat, low cholesterol diet alone to lower your cholesterol levels because as you lower your fat intake, your body increases its cholesterol production.
In order to get cholesterol levels below the recommended 200 mg/dl, you have to take cholesterol-lowering drugs.
How convenient for the pharmaceutical companies and those who benefit financially from drug sales that only prescribed, expensive drugs will lower cholesterol to the “healthy” level that our nutritional experts recommend.
On the advice of the National Institutes of Health, and the urging of pharmaceutical company representatives, physicians are prescribing these cholesterol-lowering drugs in ever greater numbers. Expensive statins such as Advicor, Lipitor, Crestor, Pravachol, and Zocor are being prescribed to millions of Americans each day, despite the evidence of the major harm they cause.
According to Consumer Reports:
Monthly prescriptions for statins rose 3.9%, from an average 12.6 million per month in the period October 2005 to May 2006 to an average 13.1 million per month in the period June 2006 to December 2006 – a gain of some 500,000 prescriptions per month.
The Jupiter Study
Just recently, the AstraZeneca-funded Jupiter study hailed statins as a new “cure” for people with elevated rates of CRP (C-Reactive Protein). CRP is a marker for inflammation within the body. What the media and the promoters of statin drugs didn’t say is that the risk reduction from the study was minimal, considering the horrible side effects of statins, and it cost the patients $3.50 a day to take these drugs.
In addition, other studies have shown that a low carbohydrate diet, the avoidance of refined vegetable oils, and the addition of pharmaceutical-grade fish oil and plain old, cheap magnesium supplements as daily supplements work much better to lower CRP and inflammation without the dangerous side effects.
And finally, SourceWatch faulted Steve Sternberg of USA Today for failing to disclose information about one of the Jupiter authors, Paul Ridker.
Mr. Ridker was the lead author of the JUPITER study, which again, found statins benefit people with elevated CRP levels. You would be wise to take the study results with a grain of salt, since Mr. Ridker receives funding from a number of statin drug companies including AstraZeneca, Merck, Novartis, and Schering-Plough, and he holds a patent on testing patients for C-reactive protein.
Health Risks of Statins
Given the importance of cholesterol to body integrity, it is inevitable that the effects of these drugs would be serious and lethal.
As mentioned above, statin drugs have caused serious kidney failure and death in perfectly healthy patients, amnesia, widespread nerve, and muscle damage, and recently have been implicated in the development of statin-related ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, often referred to as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and Parkinson’s disease.
Worse, the damage done by these drugs may be permanent in some patients. Dr. Duane Graveline, who experienced transient global amnesia after taking Lipitor, speaks about this on his website:
“After recovery and several years of research on statin drug side effects I considered myself to be lucky to have had only TGA, for when it is over, you are back to normal. Not so for most of the other statin victims in my bulging repository with their persistent neuromuscular problems, short term memory loss and ALS and Parkinsonism-like reactions.”
Sadly, Dr. Graveline is not as lucky as he thought. He talks about his diagnosis of statin-related ALS here.
In some cases, statin drugs have caused an otherwise healthy patient’s death. Dr. Graveline writes:
“In August 2001 the statin drug, Baycol, was removed from the market after causing at least 60 deaths. As a result, the safety of all statin drugs has subsequently come into question. While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) maintains that statins in common use cause considerably fewer adverse side effects than Baycol, the agency acknowledges that its use does pose some risk.
All statins increase a patient’s chances of developing myositis and rhabdomyolysis, potentially fatal conditions that cause muscle pain and muscle deterioration and may lead to kidney failure. According to the FDA, the chances of developing myositis or rhabdomyolysis from statins are low. As such, they remain on the market.”
Here’s a similar story about another person who developed ALS after taking statin drugs: The grim effects of statin drugs.
Bizarre World We Live In
It is bizarre to me that the medical community is so afraid of cholesterol, a substance that is critically beneficial to the body, that it resorts to prescribing dangerous, life-threatening drugs to lower it. What?? Is it somehow better to die from the lethal effect of a statin drug than from high cholesterol?
The bottom line is that people are being injured and dying because the Federal government has convinced the medical community and the American public that low cholesterol levels are desirable, even when multiple studies have shown that low cholesterol levels are associated with higher rates of death from all causes.
Educate Yourself About Statins!
Please, remember that many, many scientifically valid studies have shown that higher cholesterol levels are positively correlated with lower rates of death from all causes.
If you are directed to take statins by your physician, please, at least read the following books and websites before you agree. Doing so could save your health or even your life.
- Alzheimers, Statins, and Myoglobin
- Statins, Pregnancy, Sepsis, Cancer and Heart Failure A good research and cited article about the various body damage statins can cause.
- GreenMed’s database of statin-induced illnesses
- The Wonder Drug That Stole My Memory
- Drug Injury Blog on Zocor health effects
- The Statin Damage Crisis by Duane Graveline, MD.
- Statin Drugs Side Effects and the Misguided War on Cholesterol by Duane Graveline, MD.
- Lipitor Thief of Memory by Duane Graveline MD.
- Statins: The Effects are Worse Than Feared Article in the UK Guardian
- Fat and Cholesterol are Good for You by Uffe Ravnskov, MD
- The Cholesterol Myths: Exposing the Fallacy that Saturated Fat and Cholesterol Cause Heart Disease by Uffe Ravnskov, MD.
- The Great Cholesterol Con: The Truth About What Really Causes Heart Disease and How to Avoid It by Dr. Malcolm Kendrick.
- THINCS: The International Network of Cholesterol Skeptics
- Spacedoc.net, a website by Duane Graveline, M.D.
- Spacedoc.net Forums: Read anecdotal evidence about the damage statins cause to individual health.
- The Statin Effects Study website
- Baycol: Timeline of Events
Other Information on Statins
Dr. Mike Eades of Protein Power fame has posted an interesting analysis of the newest statin commercial on television here.
I am not a physician or a clinical nutritionist. The advice on this website is not intended to replace the advice of your physician.
My intention is to provide alternative facts so that you have all the information you need to make informed decisions about your health care.