New studies from the Food and Drug Administration bring forward new concerns and safety warnings for the popular medication known as statins. Risks for taking these medications should be evaluated carefully before starting a regimen. They are a popular class of cholesterol-lowering medications used by millions of people across the country and around the world to reduce their risk of heart disease and stroke.
Rare side effects from the use of statins include damage to the liver, loss of memory or other cognitive problems, as well as increase in blood sugar. The increase in blood sugar is particularly damaging as it can lead to another disease, Type 2 diabetes, that may cause end-organ kidney damage if not controlled with diet and medication. Further, one particular drug called lovastatin has also been shown to cause muscle weakness and loss of strength in a few very rare cases.
Overall, the FDA claims that the benefits of using statin medication to control cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke outweigh these rare side effects. However, although rare, the side effects do exist and the FDA believes it important to let consumers know. This information may also be particularly useful for physicians prescribing statins to patients that already have liver problems, diabetes, dementia, or muscle weakness. In these individuals, the physician may elect to try another medication first.
Questions and concerns should be discussed with the prescribing physicians. It is thought that most physicians will not take patients off statins if they are currently getting benefit from them. However, doctors may elect to monitor things like blood sugar and liver enzymes more closely if there is any question about the safety and efficacy of statins. Risks may be present, but can be minimized with careful monitoring and research.