The Jekyll and Hyde of Statins

By Drs. David Niesel and Norbert Herzog, Medical Discovery News

Cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins are the most prescribed drug ever. About 30 percent of Americans are currently taking statins such as Crestor, Lipitor, Mevacor and Zocor. Overall, statins can be good thing, but as with all drugs, there are some negative effects.

Statins lower cholesterol by inhibiting a protein called HMG-CoA reductase. Since high cholesterol levels are linked to heart disease, statins can reduce the risks of heart attack and stroke, two of the leading causes of death in the United States. Recent reports from the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology even argue that more people should be taking statins. They want everyone with a 7.5 percent or higher risk of developing heart disease in the next decade to start taking them. This would be about half of all eligible adults ages 40-75.

However, some are concerned about this many people taking statins because of serious risks associated with their use. People have reported having issues with memory loss, muscle weakness that may lead to permanent damage and elevation of blood sugar levels that can lead to Type II diabetes. Other experts argue that the benefits of statins far exceed their risks, which seem to disproportionately affect women and older individuals.

Precision medicine, also called personalized medicine, may have found a solution to this debate by studying a specific gene called SLCo1B. This gene produces a key protein that metabolizes statins in our bodies, and it causes the myopathy or muscle weakness that some people experience when they take statins. We are all unique as humans, and as such there are changes in our DNA that result in different variations of the same gene. Although small, such —> Read More