Cholesterol Lowering Drugs: AKA Statins

There may be some problems with cholesterol lowering drugs, also known as statins. Recently, it was found that one cholesterol lowering drug may actually contribute to plaque formation. Merck and Schering said that not only did Zetia fail to slow the accumulation of fatty plaque in the arteries, it actually seemed to contribute to plaque formation. Research on pravastatin appearing in the Journal of the American Medical Association (December 18, 2002;288:1998-3007,3042-3044) shows that the drug does indeed lower cholesterol, but does not reduce the risk of death or heart disease in those with moderately high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

While that is bad enough, especially considering the fact that the manufacturers delayed releasing this information, there may be worse news when it comes to cholesterol lowering drugs. Statin drugs not only block the formation of cholesterol, they block the formation of other substances as well. One thing that is inhibited by them is the formation of CoQ10.

CoQ10 is an extremely important substance to the body. A study published in the journal Diabetes Wellness (May 2005;11(5):4) showed that giving coenzyme Q 10 to patients who take statins reduces muscle pain. Subjects received either 400 IU of vitamin E or 100 mg. of coenzyme Q 10. Eighteen of the 21 subjects receiving the coenzyme Q 10 (90%) experienced pain relief; this compared to three patients out of 20 in the vitamin E group. Co Q 10 levels decrease after taking a statin drug. In the June, 2000 issue of Archives of Neurology a study was published that showed a reduction in coenzyme Q 10 levels after the subjects took 80 mg. of a statin drug. The mean blood level of Co Q 10 in the 34 participating subjects went from 1.2 mcg/ml to .62 mcg/ml.

Patients who experience muscle soreness on these drugs are advised to discontinue—they may be experiencing rhabdomyolysis, which is a breakdown of the muscles. The heart is mostly muscle and has high contents of CoQ10. One five-year study, involving 126 patients showed improvement in congestive heart failure patients—without any adverse effects. Another study showed that coenzyme Q-10 supplementation improved blood pressure, reduced left ventricular hypertrophy and improved exercise capacity in heart patients.

An article appearing in The Lancet (1998;352(Suppl. 1):39-41) notes that the incidence of heart failure has dramatically increased in the last three or four decades. The prevalence of heart failure has increased by 70% between 1990 and 2000. Since statins adversely affect muscle and deplete CoQ10, it can make you wonder if there is a connection between statin use and heart failure.

In 2008 Business Week published an article questioning the value of statins