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Jan 23rd 2024

Too Tired to Exercise? It May Be Those Statins You're Taking

. . . fatigue and exercise intolerance found common with statins

Although most labels on statin drugs list fatigue as a possible side effect, they give the impression that it’s rare. However, a new double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine has found that both decreased energy and fatigue with exertion are significantly greater in those who take statins. The strength of this effect correlated with the degree of cholesterol reduction and was greater in women than in men. The effects also correlated with reduced physical activity and exercise intolerance.

More than 1,000 adults (men over the age of twenty, and women past menopause) were given either 20 mg Zocor or 40 mg Pravachol daily or a placebo for 6 months. People with heart disease or diabetes were excluded, but all subjects had LDL levels from 115 to 190 mg/dL. They were asked to rate their “energy level” and “fatigue with exertion” on a 5-point scale at the beginning and at the end of the 6-month period.

Lead author of the study, Beatrice Golomb, MD, PhD, associate professor of medicine at the University of California at San Diego School of Medicine, is a long-time critic of statin drugs. In a press release, Dr. Golomb noted that side effects of statins generally rise with increased dose, and that while the doses used in this study were “modest by current standards,” the side effects of decreased energy and exertional fatigue were not rare, especially in women. She was concerned for what this would mean for the quality of life of those taking the drugs and also that these symptoms “may signal triggering of mechanisms by which statins may adversely affect cell health.”

While patients have reported fatigue and exercise intolerance when placed on statins, this is the first randomized trial to address the problem. Although Zocor and Pravachol were the statins used in this study, the researchers expected that results would be similar with Crestor and Lipitor.

Golomb B. Effects of statins on energy and fatigue with exertions:  results from a randomized controlled trial. Archives of Internal Medicine. June 2012; 172(15):1180-1182.
News Release from UC San Diego Health System.  Statins shown to cause fatigue. June 11, 2012.




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