Proteolytic Enzymes, A Natural Alternative | Health Blog

Date: 07/16/2009    Written by: Jon Barron

More Bad News about Statins

Statins, Muscle Weakness, Muscle Pain, Lipitor, Crestor

The latest brick in the tomb of statins -- those cholesterol-regulating meds -- comes from a new study confirming that the drugs cause structural damage to muscles. Even worse, the study, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, found that muscle damage can continue to progress even after patients stop taking the drugs. As study author Dr. Annette Draeger of the University of Bern, Switzerland, puts it, "Although in clinical practice, the majority of patients with muscle symptoms improve rapidly after cessation of therapy, our findings support that a subgroup of patients appears to be more susceptible to statin-associated myotoxicity, suffering persistent structural injury."

Scientists have long known that at least 10 to 15 percent of patients taking statins -- a class of drugs that includes the widely prescribed Lipitor, Zocol, and Pravachur -- develop muscle pain and weakness, and that one out of 50 reports continual or debilitating pain. But the scientists thought they had it under control because they could administer a blood test that determines if structural damage has been done to muscles. That test, which doctors have relied upon, measures levels of an enzyme known as creatine phosphokinase (CPK), which supposedly shows up in the blood after damage to muscles has occurred. If the patient complains of muscle pain but shows no CPK markers in the blood, physicians most likely advise that the benefits of statin therapy outweigh the discomfort of achy muscles and the patient should just buck up and live with it.

But a surprise finding in this study made clear that the CPK test doesn't necessarily give accurate readings. The researchers took leg muscle tissue biopsies of subjects who were on statins and experiencing muscle pain severe enough to interfere with normal activity. To see if the pains they complained about resulted from actual damage to their muscles, the researchers examined their muscle tissue. They found that half of the statin-taking subjects did indeed show structural damage to muscle fibers.

The finding threw some of the researchers, because in this study, only one patient showed elevated CPK levels, meaning that structural damage was ongoing and progressive for the 50 percent of patients who had "normal" readings on their muscle damage test. Nevertheless, the researchers said that patients taking statins who weren't in excruciating pain shouldn't worry and should continue taking the medicine.

The medical community jumped in to defend statins, with numerous commentators pointing out that most people on statins don't develop muscle pains at all. "Patients on statin therapy who are feeling fine should not worry about muscle damage, and no one should stop treatment without talking to their doctor," says study co-author Dr. Richard H. Karas of Tufts University. "It is important to point out that we are talking about a minority of a minority of patients taking statins," chimes in the past president of the American Heart Association, Dr. Sidney Smith. Both physicians do concede that those with long-term debilitating pain should go off the drug.

But the assumption that only a few patients suffer from muscle damage is, according to at least one study, debatable. The study, published in 2006 in the Journal of Pathology, reports that virtually all patients who take statins experience muscle damage, even if they don't have pain. The researchers, out of the University of Bern, Switzerland, performed muscle tissue biopsies on statin-taking patients and then analyzed the samples using electron microscopy. True, the damage was minimal in most cases, but it was universal. And the fact remains that at least some patients experience severe and lasting muscular degeneration from taking the drug.

The response of the medical community to studies such as the latest one makes it seem that staying on statins is worth the risk of suffering undetected muscle damage for most patients who don't experience the worst brand of pain. But, as I've written before, statins come with a high cost, far beyond the muscular damage they inflict, and they do little good for most people. Among the reported side effects: severe memory loss, nerve damage, trouble talking, nausea, vertigo, and a fifty percent increased risk of cancer.

And the payoff for those risks is -- nothing, unless you've already suffered a heart attack. While the drugs do lower cholesterol, research shows that they do absolutely nothing to lower your chances of suffering a cardiac event. A large-scale study published last year found that Lipitor prevents only one heart attack per 100 users, and that's an optimistic figure. A similar study featuring Crestor came up with similar results. I've explained at length before that cholesterol does not cause plaque to build up on artery walls, and so it's not the coronary villain it's made out to be and lowering it won't save you from heart attacks.

But the scientific community seems unwilling or unable to look past the $14.5 billion in annual sales that statins deliver, making them the best-selling medications in America. Study after study makes clear that the risks of taking statins outweigh the benefits for most people, and still doctors write out the prescriptions wholesale. The sad fact is that many far safer, less expensive options exist -- from supplementing with Omega-3 fatty acids thereby reducing circulating NEFA levels in the blood to using proteolytic enzymes to clear your arteries, reduce systemic inflammation, and repair scarred arterial tissue.

As I've written before, a 2006 study found that taking statin medications may add a maximum of 3.5 years of life to those with heart problems, but regular physical exercise adds up to five years. If you're going to have achy muscles, you might as well get them from enjoying a heart-healthy run around the track, instead of from taking a largely useless, expensive, dangerous medication. And if your doctor insists that you take statins, fire her if she doesn't also insist that you take CoQ10 with them. Supplementing with CoQ10 has been shown to reduce or prevent many of the muscle related side effects of statins.


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    Submitted by ARTHUR COPELAND on
    June 27, 2010 - 4:27pm

    I am looking to re-generate my muscles after taking STATIN DRUGS for three years. I have problems at the back of my legs , my bladder muscles do not work, I have chest pain around the chest area, then I have shortness of breath,and have finaly been told that my eye lids do not work because the muscles have been damaged. I am using CQ 10, L-caratine & D-ribose to help with my pain which is helping me to walk real good.-------- Will these products help my muscles to regenerate ? OR CAN YOU RECCOMEND ANY OTHER PRODUCT----- THANK YOU FOR ANY HELP

    Submitted by Bill on
    July 16, 2009 - 11:49pm

    I am new to your site and have just read several of your articles especially those related to heart health as those are of particular concern to me. I signed up for your newsletter and downloaded the e-book which I will be reading. So far I would like to say a big hearty 'thank you' for providing all this information.
    One question/suggestion comes to my mind, and I may find the answer as I continue to digest articles on your site, ""Do you (or could you) provide links to the sources of your findings?"" Frankly, in my reading related to health and diet issues there is so much information out there and much of it is provided without other than a cursory reference to substantive research to back up claims, that I find myself being frustrated in my quest to focus on real solutions.
    Thank you for reading and considering my input. I'll continue looking through the information you have provided.

    Submitted by Birgit on
    August 2, 2009 - 11:43pm

    I have read, and I am sorry I forgotten where, that 'high level' anything is a mere symptom of something , not an illness by itself. Treating a symptom makes NO SENSE
    Although I am still considered obese( working on it) I have gotten rid off high blood pressure and much more
    1.Quit smoking, stopped trashy foods
    2.Take Garlic & Fishoil supplements
    3. Lowered the stress on my kidneys, fluoride and chlorine filtered water,and a potassium supplement 'Parsley'(nothing from Pharma)
    No soda, and I was addicted!
    4.Just added moderate regular exercise recent, was not able to before.
    PS. I started my journey away from Pharma and towards good health with just the fish oil 3 years ago.
    It lowered my cholesterol and resolved arthritis pains and an incontinence problem.
    I started taking fish oil to help with depression, as nothing else had helped.
    I will NEVER trust Pharma again, they only made me sicker with their exspensive potions.

    Submitted by CHRISTIAN MEYER on
    July 20, 2009 - 2:25am


    Submitted by Jim Lumppio on
    August 3, 2009 - 12:40am

    Margaret, I'm taking simvastatin (zocor) and added zetia recently and notice I'm getting a lot more aches, especially joint, than when I was just taking zocor, so I'm thinking of quitting the zetia. Have you looked up Nutritional Typing, do a search on that? It may help you find out what is the best diet for your metabolic type and alleviate your high cholesteral some.

    Submitted by Johanna Walbaum on
    January 4, 2010 - 11:49am

    Hello Dr. Carter,
    I read all your article reg. Muscle pain. But I can't find a solution to solve the problem. I took Crestor for month, after a while I became so bad muscle pain. I didn't know that the pain came from Crestor but I stopped taking it and still I am in pain, I have the feeling it gets worst, I can't stand up when I am sitting and hardly can walk. Painkiller are helping only for a short time.
    Please is there any ""HELP"" you know about.
    I have pain in both legs, mostly in the upper part. I tried everything to get a relief from massage to exercise and medications.
    I really looking forward to get your advice,
    thank you Johanna

    Submitted by Jon Barron on
    July 17, 2009 - 1:33am


    While it is true that some of the earlier articles on the site (going back to 2003 and earlier) are short on references, for the last several years every article and blog entry has been fully referenced with live links. For example, check out the series of seven newsletters on the cardiovascular system -- your focus of interest.

    Or check out the latest blog entry on statins

    As for the book, the free downloadable version does not contain many references. But the new hardcover edition is twice as long and is fully annotated. You can check it out at most bookstores.

    Submitted by Laveda Fleming on
    August 3, 2009 - 5:32am

    From my point of view--NEVER, EVER take statins!
    I take garlic, fish oil 1000 mg. 3 times/day, and red yeast rice 3000 mg. daily in divided doses. I am happy with my cholesterol numbers:Total cholesterol 197-225, Triglycerides 51, HDL 96, and LDL 122. My M.D. doesn't like it, but I refuse to ingest statins. She's just going to have to agree to disagree. Cholesterol doesn't cause heart disease. One of the worst bad guys is elevated homocysteine levels. My late husband had multiple heart issues and never had a cholesterol level above 161.

    Submitted by Margaret Ferguson on
    August 2, 2009 - 2:57pm

    Hello Dr. Jon,
    I've been on and off of statins for many years. I have taken myself off of Lipitor several times and tried virtually everything I know in the natural form to bring my numbers in line.
    This last time I went off of statins for eight months. This month testing showed Overall cholesterol at 253 - LDL - 169 - Tryglycerides 289 - HDL - 41. Ratio according to my doc is not good. I've tried krill oil, digestive enzymes, proteolytic enzymes, specialty formulas.
    I do not seem to be able to raise my HDL, and the tryglycerides (and to a lesser degree the LDL)continually go up when off the statins. My doc says its stress, or hereditary so diet won't help either. I've also taken the C reactive protein test and results were perfect.
    So do I have reason to be concerned with these kinds of numbers? Surely the numbers indicate some sort of risk factor, especially the high tryglycerides? I am tired of the muscle pain and dizziness. Any advice as what else I might try greatly appreciated.

    Submitted by Rob Carter on
    August 3, 2009 - 11:23am

    Jon, I follow your letter constantly and have communicated with you, Kristen and Cathy Gains a few times with good resulths and thanks.
    I have interest in the several comments above and would love to receive your answers to them.

    Submitted by Theresa on
    February 14, 2010 - 11:21pm

    Can you comment on the side effects of red rice yeast supplements. Any good links about this product.
    Thanks, Theresa

    Submitted by brenda on
    January 29, 2011 - 11:40am

    i had a kidney transplant in 1999 and doing fairly well. I am on 2 bp meds (Metatoprol tartrate 250 mg a day, & Cozaar) zocor 20mg, Uloric due to high uric acid levels with repeated gout attacks, 5 mg prednisone to work along with 250 mg Neoral (anti rejection med) I have been on zocor for 11 year and mevacor for about 8 yrs prior to that. I feel weakened in legs big time, my arms have lost most strength -gallon of milk is pushing it, can barely make a real tight fist, etc. My kidney doc says to stay on statins due to all the other meds becasue my anti reject (Neoral) elevates cholesterol and the prednisone is destroying my bones.
    I am so confused and don't know if this is just what to expect after a transplant and that's why I feel weak and bones& muscles ache and find it hard to walk without pain. I also have heel spurs and planter fashia SP? So to ramble, so do you think I could go off the zocor and try something you may recommend or is my doc correct saying I need this due to all of the above regarding my transplant. I truly feel that some if not more of my issues are an over load and toxic build up of drugs over the last 20+ years. I understand that I need to take my prednisone and Neoral as to not reject my kidney, I just found out that I probably and now diabetic also sugar runs about 127 each month give or take 5 -10 points. This too is a reaction from the meds and transplant according to the doc. My cholesterol usually runs 215 each month and trigs are high about 160-180. ANY help or advice would be appreciated more than I can express. I don't want to complain I am grateful for all my blessings, but I just turned 52 this week and would love to be around much longer and enjoy my family.
    Thank you

    Submitted by Annette Dunn on
    December 26, 2011 - 5:08pm

    can you suggess the best coenzyme Q10 and quantity to take. Thanks

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