Statins are medications used to treat high blood cholesterol levels in patients with LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels over 180 mg/dL or have other risk factors for heart attacks or strokes. They work by lowering production of LDL in the liver by blocking an enzyme called HMG-CoA reductase. The following are examples of statins:

  • Lipitor (atorvastatin)
  • Lescol (fluvastatin)–one of two least likely to cause muscle pain
  • Lipostat (pravastatin)
  • Crestor (rosuvastatin)
  • Zocor (simvastatin)–most likely to cause muscle pain
  • Livalo (pitavastatin–one of two least likely to cause muscle pain
  • Pravachol (pravastatin)

One of the side effects of statins is myopathy, a condition of weakness and pain in muscles. This condition can progress to rhabdomyolysis, in which muscles are broken down, which can cause kidney failure and other complications.  Unless the patient’s urine is brown, indicating rhabdomyolysis, staying with the medication for at least 2 to 3 weeks is often advised in the hope that the pain will go away. Warm towels or heating pads can help ease the pain until the body adjusts to the medication.

Coenzyme Q10 may be helpful in some patients. This enzyme is found in most living cells and has to do with energy in muscle cells. Statins reduce coenzyme Q10 in muscle cells, leading researchers to propose this mechanism as the cause of muscle pain and weakness. Common side effects are:

  • Upper abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea

This product is marketed as an over-the-counter dietary supplement.

Did you know? Our doctors can help you discuss options for treating high cholesterol and possible side effects from statins. You can make an appointment with one of our online doctors at your convenience.