Hidden Side Effects of Statins and How Easily You Can Uncover Them

In 2009, a British rheumatologist named Andrew Banji wrote about the hidden side effects of statins in the Daily Mail:

I discovered the link between statins and rheumatic side-effects quite by chance. My attack of tendon inflammation occurred at the front of my shin – a highly unusual place for tenosynovitis – so I decided to do some research into what could have triggered this. I was amazed to discover the only other related case was linked to a patient on statins.

Following a high cholesterol-reading of 9.2 a couple of months before, I’d been put on the drug. Intrigued by the connection, I decided to stop taking my statin to see what happened. Within a couple of weeks, the pain had gone.

I went back to my GP and, over successive months, tried various statins, including rosuvastatin which is one that is often prescribed.

Each form of the drug caused terrible problems, including night cramp, muscle pain, severe muscle disorders known as myopathy and general fatigue. In fact, I became so tired I couldn’t lift anything when I was gardening or even walk the half-mile from my home to the center of town.

Yet whenever I halted the medication, my symptoms disappeared within a few weeks. . . .

I began to realize many of my patients with musculoskeletal conditions such as polymyalgia – pain, stiffness, and tenderness in the muscles – were on statins. When I advised them to stop taking their medication, their problems went away.\

By 2009, statins were perhaps the most heavily prescribed drugs ever, making tens of billions of dollars for drug companies. Yet this story shows that at that point a doctor who was taking statins was not yet aware of major common side effects. How convenient for drug companies. The story also shows that patients with a variety of muscular problems had to be told by a doctor to stop taking their statins to find out if the statins were causing the problem. That should have been common sense. On a more positive note, this story shows how easily some health problems can be fixed (“when I advised them to stop taking their medicaiton, their problems went away”).

7 Replies to “Hidden Side Effects of Statins and How Easily You Can Uncover Them”

  1. One of the big studies of statins hid the side effects as follows. They gave the drug and the placebo to the two groups. In the first few weeks of the study many of the subjects suffered side effects so bad that they dropped out. These people were then obliterated from the statistics and the subsequent boasted-about results for benefits and side effects ignored their existence.

    In my little corner of science we’d have called that “lying”.

    Seth: I didn’t know about that. Because these drugs are so widely prescribed and so profitable and yet have so little apparent benefit — so little that the side effects could easily be worse than the benefits — “lying” is a rather weak term for the deception you describe.

  2. Patches in the body can have different genes, biochemistry, or something.
    They react differently from the rest of the body.
    The front of his shin could be such a patch.

    This should be useful for something.

  3. So what did the good British rheumatologist named Andrew Banji do about his elevated cholesterol level of 9.2 mmol/l (355.76179 mg/dl)? It is unlikely that Cholesterol at this level can be brought down by dieting alone.

  4. Evelyn M., total cholesterol is basically meaningless. We’re even discovering that LDL cholesterol, while better, is not that useful as a predictor of heart disease.

  5. These are not hidden side effects. These are pretty well known side-effects documented all over literature, especially the join pain and muscle pain. Most of these happen when statins are over-prescribed, i.e. doctors give patients with very high cholesterol more Statin than the recommended dose (the dose that the original safety trials were done). Some people think CoQ10 supplementation could help but the reality is that no body to-date knows for certain the exact reason why statins cause these problems.

    Seth: You seem to be saying the author of this article made a fool of himself (and opened himself up to charges of incompetence) in Great Britain’s most popular paper.

  6. A retired friend points out that a far higher proportion of his pals who are on statins report nasty side effects than is consistent with the literature.

    He’s an epidemiologist by trade.

Comments are closed.