Health chiefs issue warning over 'rare but serious complication' associated with statin use

27 September 2023, 17:08

Health chiefs have alerted people on the cholesterol-lowering drug to a potential serious health condition.
Health chiefs have alerted people on the cholesterol-lowering drug to a potential serious health condition. Picture: Alamy

By Jenny Medlicott

Health chiefs have warned Brits taking statins about a rare but serious health complication that may have gone under the radar for years.

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Seven types of statin pills, including all five prescribed in the UK, have been linked to myasthenia gravis, a new report has shown.

Myasthenia gravis is a rare long-term condition that causes muscle weakness, according to the NHS site.

It can affect the muscles that control the eyes, eyelids, facial expressions, chewing, swallowing and speaking.

Patients on the cholesterol-lowering drugs have reported suffering from the condition as a side effect of the drug, according to the Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

Atorvastatin, sold under the brand name Lipitor, pravastatin (Lipostat) and lovastatin (Mevacor) are among the drugs affected.

While the number of suspected cases were only reported in “very small numbers”, officials have issued guidance on the symptoms to look out for of the condition.

“There have been some suspected reports of new-onset or aggravation of preexisting myasthenia gravis associated with statin use,” an MHRA spokesperson said.

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Myasthenia gravis has been linked to the cholesterol-lowering drugs.
Myasthenia gravis has been linked to the cholesterol-lowering drugs. Picture: Alamy

“The current frequency of these adverse events is not known but given the extensive use of statins in the population, the reports are understood to be very infrequent.”

Some 9.5 million Brits take some form of the cholesterol-lowering drug, which helps reduce the risk of problems such as heart failure, heart disease and strokes.

Headaches, dizziness, feeling sick and muscle pain are among some of the most common side effects of the drug.

But Myasthenia gravis, while rare, is a more serious health complication and can be life-threatening in severe cases.

It usually impacts women over 40 or men over 60 and can cause symptoms such as droopy eyelids, double vision, difficulty making facial expressions, problems chewing and swallowing and slurred speech.

Only 10 cases of the condition have been reported to the MHRA in the last 30 years and affected people in their 60s on average.

The symptoms developed within three days and three months of taking statins and no cases were fatal.

The MHRA has advised patients who already have the condition to monitor their condition while taking the drugs.

Patients experiencing the condition for the first time while takint statins should be referred to a neurology specialist, the health body also told medics.

It also urged anybody considering coming off the drugs to speak to their GP first.

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