Statin drugs such as simvastatin and atorvastatin are commonly prescribed to treat high cholesterol. Many people have experienced debilitating muscle pain as a side effect of taking these medications. In some cases, patients have experienced irreversible muscle damage. Prevalence of muscle pain caused by statins could be as high as 30%, but we can’t be sure of the number because not everyone reports these side effects. Some people aren’t even aware of muscle pain as a side effect of statin medications, and still others write off the muscle pain they experience as a result of “getting old”. Sometimes this side effect may not be experienced until several years after starting statin therapy. Luckily there are several alternatives to statins for those who are experiencing any kind of muscular aches.
Why Statins Cause Muscle Pain
Statins work by stopping the production of an enzyme called HMG-Coenzyme A. The production of this enzyme is an early step in cholesterol synthesis which makes statins an effective drug for many people. The downside is that this step is so early on in the process that it also blocks several other essential processes. HMG-Coenzyme A also leads to the production of Coenzyme Q10. As many know, CoQ10 is an important antioxidant, and it is now a common supplement sold on drugstore shelves. Not so commonly known, however, is that CoQ10 also plays a role in the breakdown of glucose to create energy for cells (ATP). Muscles need ATP to contract. If the muscles are unable to utilize energy from glucose, they must use their own proteins for energy. This process can not only affect skeletal muscle tissue, but the muscle tissue of the lungs and heart as well.
We should note here that this is one of the hypotheses for why statins cause muscle pain and the breakdown of muscle tissue. Because statins block a process in a chain reaction of biological processes, there are other components that can affect muscle tissue.
Alternatives to Statins
If you have noticed bothersome side effects from taking statin drugs, ask your doctor about the following types of medications to see if any of them might be viable alternatives:
Cholesterol Absorption Inhibitors
Cholesterol absorption inhibitor drugs, such as Zetia, work by blocking the absorption of cholesterol from food in the small intestine into the bloodstream. Zetia is often prescribed as an alternative to statin drugs when patients experience severe side effects.
Bile Acid Sequestrants
Bile acid sequestrants such as Welchol, prevent the reabsorption of bile acids in the intestine. When the supply of bile acids becomes depleted, the production of an enzyme in the liver is increased in order to convert more LDL into bile acid salts. This type of non-statin cholesterol medication is often prescribed for those who are experiencing moderately high levels because it isn’t normally as effective as statins.
The newest class of cholesterol lowering drugs, PCSK9 inhibitors, have proven to be quite effective in lowering high LDL levels without statins. PCSK9 inhibitors, such as Repatha, work by blocking an enzyme that breaks down LDL receptors in the liver. These LDL receptors remove LDL particles from the blood. By preventing the breakdown of these receptors, the liver is able to remove more LDL from the bloodstream.
Talk to your doctor about switching to a statin-free drug and avoid experiencing any of its adverse side effects, such as muscle pains and aches. To get free coupons and reduce the price of Zetia or other alternative medications search our site for these drugs.