Statin drugs, which promise to reduce the levels of bad (LDL) cholesterol in the body while improving the levels of good (HDL) cholesterol, are the fastest-growing class of prescription drugs in the world, but increasing evidence shows they may not be safe, and Canadian health officials are warning that statins can cause serious muscle damage.
Health Canada is now requiring manufacturers of statin drugs such as Lipitor, Zocor, Pravachol, Mevacor and Crestor to include warnings and information about the potential for muscle damage on patient safety information sheets, according to the Toronto Star.
General muscle pain is a side effect frequently experienced by patients on statin drugs. The drugs may also lead to a potentially fatal muscle-wasting disease called rhabdomyolysis in patients with certain pre-existing medical conditions. In this potentially deadly disease, muscle cells are destroyed and released into the bloodstream and can cause patients to suffer kidney failure.
Health Canada spokesperson Jirina Vlk told the Toronto Star the new warnings are a “precautionary measure” because so many Canadians are prescribed statin drugs to treat high cholesterol. “There’s a high number of Canadians prescribed statins, so we want them to be aware of the risks associated with that,” Vlk said.
Likewise, in the United States, millions of people are prescribed statin drugs. In 2001, Americans filled more than 57 million prescriptions for Lipitor, the most popular of the five available statin drugs.
Other possible side effects of statin drugs include nausea, diarrhea and constipation, and they have even caused severe memory and mental awareness problems in some patients. Most people concerned about their blood cholesterol levels can improve cholesterol naturally by making changes to their diet and exercise regime. In fact, a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed adding foods like tofu, almonds, cereal fibers, plant sterols and soy products can lower total cholesterol more effectively than statin drugs.
Of course, doctors continue to prescribe moneymaking statin drugs to millions of people around the world, posing a great risk to human health. Health Canada is taking a step in the right direction by stiffening the health warnings on prescription statin drugs. As more information surfaces about the risks of statin drugs, hopefully more people will begin to say no to drugs like Lipitor and Crestor and take responsibility for their health in a safer, more natural way.
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