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      Statins, Muscle Disease and Mitochondria


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          Cardiovascular disease (CVD) accounts for >17 million deaths globally every year, and this figure is predicted to rise to >23 million by 2030. Numerous studies have explored the relationship between cholesterol and CVD and there is now consensus that dyslipidaemia is a causal factor in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis. Statins have become the cornerstone of the management of dyslipidaemia. Statins have proved to have a very good safety profile. The risk of adverse events is small compared to the benefits. Nevertheless, the potential risk of an adverse event occurring must be considered when prescribing and monitoring statin therapy to individual patients. Statin-associated muscle disease (SAMS) is by far the most studied and the most common reason for discontinuation of therapy. The reported incidence varies greatly, ranging between 5% and 29%. Milder disease is common and the more serious form, rhabdomyolysis is far rarer with an incidence of approximately 1 in 10,000. The pathophysiology of, and mechanisms leading to SAMS, are yet to be fully understood. Literature points towards statin-induced mitochondrial dysfunction as the most likely cause of SAMS. However, the exact processes leading to mitochondrial dysfunction are not yet fully understood. This paper details some of the different aetiological hypotheses put forward, focussing particularly on those related to mitochondrial dysfunction.

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          Most cited references 65

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          Randomised trial of cholesterol lowering in 4444 patients with coronary heart disease: the Scandinavian Simvastatin Survival Study (4S)

          Drug therapy for hypercholesterolaemia has remained controversial mainly because of insufficient clinical trial evidence for improved survival. The present trial was designed to evaluate the effect of cholesterol lowering with simvastatin on mortality and morbidity in patients with coronary heart disease (CHD). 4444 patients with angina pectoris or previous myocardial infarction and serum cholesterol 5.5-8.0 mmol/L on a lipid-lowering diet were randomised to double-blind treatment with simvastatin or placebo. Over the 5.4 years median follow-up period, simvastatin produced mean changes in total cholesterol, low-density-lipoprotein cholesterol, and high-density-lipoprotein cholesterol of -25%, -35%, and +8%, respectively, with few adverse effects. 256 patients (12%) in the placebo group died, compared with 182 (8%) in the simvastatin group. The relative risk of death in the simvastatin group was 0.70 (95% CI 0.58-0.85, p = 0.0003). The 6-year probabilities of survival in the placebo and simvastatin groups were 87.6% and 91.3%, respectively. There were 189 coronary deaths in the placebo group and 111 in the simvastatin group (relative risk 0.58, 95% CI 0.46-0.73), while noncardiovascular causes accounted for 49 and 46 deaths, respectively. 622 patients (28%) in the placebo group and 431 (19%) in the simvastatin group had one or more major coronary events. The relative risk was 0.66 (95% CI 0.59-0.75, p < 0.00001), and the respective probabilities of escaping such events were 70.5% and 79.6%. This risk was also significantly reduced in subgroups consisting of women and patients of both sexes aged 60 or more. Other benefits of treatment included a 37% reduction (p < 0.00001) in the risk of undergoing myocardial revascularisation procedures. This study shows that long-term treatment with simvastatin is safe and improves survival in CHD patients.
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            Effect of statins on skeletal muscle function.

            Many clinicians believe that statins cause muscle pain, but this has not been observed in clinical trials, and the effect of statins on muscle performance has not been carefully studied. The Effect of Statins on Skeletal Muscle Function and Performance (STOMP) study assessed symptoms and measured creatine kinase, exercise capacity, and muscle strength before and after atorvastatin 80 mg or placebo was administered for 6 months to 420 healthy, statin-naive subjects. No individual creatine kinase value exceeded 10 times normal, but average creatine kinase increased 20.8±141.1 U/L (P<0.0001) with atorvastatin. There were no significant changes in several measures of muscle strength or exercise capacity with atorvastatin, but more atorvastatin than placebo subjects developed myalgia (19 versus 10; P=0.05). Myalgic subjects on atorvastatin or placebo had decreased muscle strength in 5 of 14 and 4 of 14 variables, respectively (P=0.69). These results indicate that high-dose atorvastatin for 6 months does not decrease average muscle strength or exercise performance in healthy, previously untreated subjects. Nevertheless, this blinded, controlled trial confirms the undocumented impression that statins increase muscle complaints. Atorvastatin also increased average creatine kinase, suggesting that statins produce mild muscle injury even among asymptomatic subjects. This increase in creatine kinase should prompt studies examining the effects of more prolonged, high-dose statin treatment on muscular performance. URL: http://www.clinicaltrials.gov. Unique identifier: NCT00609063.
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              Lack of Effect of Lowering LDL Cholesterol on Cancer: Meta-Analysis of Individual Data from 175,000 People in 27 Randomised Trials of Statin Therapy

              Background Statin therapy reduces the risk of occlusive vascular events, but uncertainty remains about potential effects on cancer. We sought to provide a detailed assessment of any effects on cancer of lowering LDL cholesterol (LDL-C) with a statin using individual patient records from 175,000 patients in 27 large-scale statin trials. Methods and Findings Individual records of 134,537 participants in 22 randomised trials of statin versus control (median duration 4.8 years) and 39,612 participants in 5 trials of more intensive versus less intensive statin therapy (median duration 5.1 years) were obtained. Reducing LDL-C with a statin for about 5 years had no effect on newly diagnosed cancer or on death from such cancers in either the trials of statin versus control (cancer incidence: 3755 [1.4% per year [py]] versus 3738 [1.4% py], RR 1.00 [95% CI 0.96-1.05]; cancer mortality: 1365 [0.5% py] versus 1358 [0.5% py], RR 1.00 [95% CI 0.93–1.08]) or in the trials of more versus less statin (cancer incidence: 1466 [1.6% py] vs 1472 [1.6% py], RR 1.00 [95% CI 0.93–1.07]; cancer mortality: 447 [0.5% py] versus 481 [0.5% py], RR 0.93 [95% CI 0.82–1.06]). Moreover, there was no evidence of any effect of reducing LDL-C with statin therapy on cancer incidence or mortality at any of 23 individual categories of sites, with increasing years of treatment, for any individual statin, or in any given subgroup. In particular, among individuals with low baseline LDL-C (<2 mmol/L), there was no evidence that further LDL-C reduction (from about 1.7 to 1.3 mmol/L) increased cancer risk (381 [1.6% py] versus 408 [1.7% py]; RR 0.92 [99% CI 0.76–1.10]). Conclusions In 27 randomised trials, a median of five years of statin therapy had no effect on the incidence of, or mortality from, any type of cancer (or the aggregate of all cancer).

                Author and article information

                Role: Academic Editor
                Role: Academic Editor
                J Clin Med
                J Clin Med
                Journal of Clinical Medicine
                25 July 2017
                August 2017
                : 6
                : 8
                [1 ]Departments of Chemical Pathology/Metabolic Medicine, Guys and St Thomas’ Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, London SE1 7EH, UK; anthony.wierzbicki@ 123456kcl.ac.uk
                [2 ]Adult Inherited Metabolic Diseases, Centre for Inherited Metabolic Diseases, Evelina, Guys and St Thomas’ Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Lambeth Palace Road, London SE1 7EH, UK
                Author notes
                © 2017 by the authors.

                Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).


                cardiovascular, statin, myopathy, muscle, mitochondria


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