A new paper cites nearly 900 studies on the adverse effects of HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors, also called statins, which are a class of drugs widely used to treat high cholesterol. The review provides the most complete picture to date of reported side effects of statins.
Muscle problems are the best known of statin drugs' adverse side effects, but cognitive problems and pain or numbness in the extremities are also widely reported. A spectrum of other problems, ranging from blood glucose elevations to tendon problems, can also occur as side effects.
The paper summarizes powerful evidence that statin-induced injury to the function of the body's energy-producing cells, called mitochondria, underlies many of the adverse effects that occur to patients taking statin drugs. Statins lower levels of coenzyme Q10, a compound central to the processes of making energy within mitochondria and eliminating dangerous compounds called free radicals.
Higher statin doses and more powerful statins are linked to greater risk of developing side effects.