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Muscle pain not affected by statins

Thursday February 25th 2021

Muscle pain is not exacerbated by the use of statins, according to the results of a UK trial, published today.

Although severe side effects from statins are rare, many people believe the cholesterol-lowering drugs can cause muscle pain and stiffness, despite the lack of clear clinical trial evidence to support this.

Researchers from the Faculty of Epidemiology and Population Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine looked to establish the effect of statins on muscle symptoms in people who had previously reported muscle symptoms when taking the drugs.

Their findings are published in the latest edition of The BMJ.

Their randomised, placebo-controlled study involved 200 patients, with an average age of 69.5 years, from 50 general practices in England and Wales who had recently stopped or were considering stopping treatment with statins because of muscle symptoms.

They were each randomly assigned to a sequence of six, two-month treatment periods during each of which they received either statins or a placebo.

Adherence to the study drug treatment was high, with at least 80% of participants reporting taking their drug treatment “every day” or “most days” during each period.

At the end of each treatment period, participants rated their muscle symptoms, defined as pain, weakness, tenderness, stiffness, or cramp of any intensity, on a nought to ten point scale.

Overall, the researchers found no difference in muscle symptom scores nor in the effect of muscle symptoms on aspects of daily life between the statin and placebo periods.

Out of the 200, 18 (9%) withdrew because of intolerable muscle symptoms during a statin period and 13 (7%) withdrew during a placebo period.

Following the study, two thirds of those completing the trial said they planned to restart long-term statins treatment.

The researchers assessed the effect of one type of statin on muscle symptoms and say for some patients, pain scores may have been affected by treatment from the previous period.

However, they conclude it was a large, well-designed trial based on repeated measurements of muscle pain in patients who had experienced symptoms during statin treatment.

The research team suggest muscle aches and pains are common among the age group that take statins and might occur coincidentally with the use of statins. This could lead patients and clinicians to attribute pain to statins.

They add that this type of trial could be adopted by clinicians who are looking to establish the best course of treatment for patients, in general practice or outpatient settings, who present with muscle symptoms associated with statins.

Herrett E, Williamson E, Brack K et al. Statin treatment and muscle symptoms: series of randomised, placebo controlled n-of-1 trials. The BMJ 25 February 2021


Tags: Heart Health | Pain Relief | Pharmaceuticals | UK News

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