Live longer, but feel tired all the time? A new study suggests that statins can significantly increase the risk of experiencing a drop in energy or becoming unusually tired while exercising. Moreover, the results found that women appeared to have been disproportionately affected.
The findings, which were published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, are not the sort of shocker associated with serious side effects, but may contribute to the ongoing debate over the value of taking the cholesterol-lowering pills indefinitely in hopes of reducing a cardiovascular problem.
In the study, the researchers looked at data pertaining to 692 men and 324 women from the San Diego region who older than 20 and had elevated LDL levels, but did not have a history of either heart disease or diabetes at the time the study began. They were randomly assigned to receive either 40 mg of Pravachol, 20 mg of Zocor or a placebo. The data was culled from an earlier study of statin patients.
"We found that even at comparatively modest doses, statins were associated with a not-inconsequential drop in energy in some patients, a rise in fatigue with exertion in others and sometimes both," lead study author Beatrice Golomb, associate professor of medicine at the University of California, San Diego, tells HealthDay. "This was true for both men and women, but it appears to be more of a problem for female patients."
Specifically, 40 percent of women taking Zocor reported experiencing energy loss or fatigue with exercise, while 20 percent experienced both. As for men, energy loss and fatigue was reported at about 25 percent of what was found among women in each type of side effect. They also found that Zocor patients ran a higher risk of fatigue, although the pill generated a larger decrease in LDL levels than Pravachol (here is the study).
To what extent, if any, will these findings affect medical practice. For one thing, the findings relied on patient-reported outcomes and the notion of fatigue can, of course, vary among individuals, so further validation will be needed. At the same time, Golomb notes that studies have found statins may offer a small benefit to people without heart disease, so fatigue lower quality of life.
"When you add to that the fact that these drugs can have a strong negative impact on a patient's quality of life, I think there is a rationale for rethinking their use among many individuals," she tells HealthDay. "Preventive medicine should only be used when the benefits clearly outweigh the risks."