December 13, 2010

Muscle Cramps May Continue For Years After Stopping Cholesterol Medicine in Some Patients

Posted in New Heart Studies tagged , , , , , , , , at 8:06 pm by keepyourhearthealthy

photo by graur razvan ionut

A new study has identified the reason why some patients have severe muscle cramps with statins.

Approximately 5% of patients who take statins find themselves weak and achy all over within a few days to several months after starting the medicine.  Statins such as Lipitor, Zocor, Crestor, simvastatin, pravastatin and lovastatin are used to treat high cholesterol.  They are also frequently given to anyone with blockages in their arteries.

When muscle aches develop in a person taking cholesterol medicine, the first step is to stop the medicine and try something else.   Usually the aches and pains go away within a few weeks.  Unfortunately, some people continue to have symptoms for even a year after quitting the medicine! This new study that was just reported shows why these unlucky people have worse symptoms than everyone else.  Some of them have been found to make antibodies against a substance called HMG-CoA.  Muscle that is injured tends to have more HMG-CoA therefore more muscle damage occurs in people with antibodies against it.

It sounds like the cycle might go something like this:

  1. a person begins taking a statin drug to lower cholesterol
  2. statin increases HMG-CoA in the body
  3. antibodies attack and injure the muscles with high HMG-CoA
  4. statin is stopped but injured muscles continue to have high HMG-CoA
  5. antibodies continuously attack the muscles

The cycle does not stop until immunosuppressive drugs are given to tell the body to stop attacking itself.  You might say that in these small, select cases people develop an autoimmune disease only after receiving statin medicines.  This study has become a very important step in the process of avoiding these terrible reactions altogether in the future.  Labs might eventually be able to test people  for the HMG-CoA antibody before they are given a statin so everyone would be able to rest easy in the decision to treat high cholesterol with or without statins.

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