from: Dr. Mercola
Cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins may increase the risk of nerve damage called neuropathy.
But the well-known benefits of statins far outweigh the risk of neuropathy, which remains very low.
Peripheral neuropathy occurs when nerves in the peripheral nervous system — those outside of the brain and spinal cord — become damaged. Symptoms vary but may include tingling, numbness and burning pain as well as decreased sensitivity to temperature or pain.
Diabetes, kidney disease, thyroid disease and alcohol abuse can all lead to neuropathy, but the nerve damage, known as polyneuropathy when it affects more than one nerve, may develop independently of these conditions.
As more and more people have started taking statins on a long-term basis, a small number of patients have developed cases of nerve damage with no apparent obvious cause. Investigstors report the results of a larger study that seems to confirm the link between statins and neuropathy. In the population-based study in a Danish county, the researchers identified 166 first-time cases of neuropathy that did not have an obvious cause.
The cases were divided into definite, probable and possible cases depending on how certain the researchers were that the nerve damage could not have been caused by some other condition. Nine of the patients had taken statins, with the average length of treatment being nearly 3 years.
Compared to a “control” group of people who did not have neuropathy, people who had taken statins were 4 to 14 times more likely to develop polyneuropathy that did not have a known cause.
Several of the statins taken by patients in the study list peripheral neuropathy as a possible side effect.
Neurology May 14, 2002;58:1321-1322, 1333-1337
DR. MERCOLA’S COMMENT:
There is a rare group of individuals with familial hypercholesterolemia. This genetic defect, which occurs in about one in 500 people, does not respond favorably to a grain and sugar restricted program. People with this condition should take Coenzyme Q-10 to compensate for the statins’ reduction of this valuable antioxidant.
“Experts” believe half of all Americans should be placed on these drugs however, less than 1% actually need them.
Statins were introduced in 1987 and have quickly become blockbuster drugs with total annual sales of more than $14 billion. Leading products include Pfizer Inc.’s Lipitor, Merck and Co Inc.’s Zocor, and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.’s Pravachol.
Additional Comment by Uffe Ravnskov author of The Cholesterol Myths:
A high cholesterol is a risk marker, nothing more, and the goal is not to treat high cholesterol but to prevent cardiovascular disease. There is overwhelming evidence that the statins do not exert their effect by lowering cholesterol but by other mechanisms.
Most important, the effect of statin treatment is independent of the dose – in the trials those whose cholesterol was lowered a little only had just as much benefit from the treatment as those whose cholesterol was lowered the most.