Statins can drain the life out of us

Statin drugs reduce cholesterol by inhibiting the an enzyme in the liver (HMG-CoA reductase) which plays a role in the production of cholesterol in the liver. Unfortunately, this enzyme also plays a part in the production of a substance known as Coenzyme Q10, which itself is important for energy production within the body’s cells. Statins therefore have the ability to drain the life out of people. Any doctor who sees patients and actually listens to them will know this from experience, and now someone’s actually gone and shown it with a scientific study [1].

The study was published on-line in the Archives of Internal Medicine. A group of individuals were randomised to take one of two statins (simvastatin at 20 mg per day or pravastatin at 40 mg per day) or placebo for six months. Participants were rated at regular intervals through the study for their perceived fatigue on exertion, general fatigue and energy levels.

One thing worth highlighting here is that the study was only 6 months in duration. This is relevant because it’s not uncommon for the adverse side-effects of statins to come on many months or even years after the treatment is started.

Overall, statins did indeed appear to cause a significant change in energy and worsen fatigue on exertion. Women were more affected than men.

Four out of 10 women reported either reduction in energy or worsening of fatigue on exertion.

Two out of 10 women reported problems with both these things.

One out of 10 women reported that both of these things were ‘much worse’.

The authors remark:

Effects were seen in a generally healthy sample given modest statin doses, and both simvastatin and pravastatin contributed to the significant adverse effect of statins on energy and fatigue with exertion. Particularly for women, these unfavorable effects were not uncommon… These findings are important, given the central relevance of energy and functional status to well-being.

If you or someone you know appears to have statin-related fatigue or other symptoms (such as muscle pain), please see this blog post about how this might be reversed using supplements of Coenzyme Q10.


1. Golomb BA, et al. Effects of Statins on Energy and Fatigue With Exertion: Results From a Randomized Controlled Trial. Arch Int Med epub 11 June 2012

26 Responses to Statins can drain the life out of us

  1. anne 15 June 2012 at 4:03 pm #

    Indeed. My poor father has been on statins 18 years and now suffers heart failure and vascular dementia, progressing at an alarming rate despite our best efforts. To think he had Atrial Fibrillation – idiopathic, which could have been simply put down to stress and panic attacks in my book. If you have the choice avoid like the plague or make sure coQ10 is on your radar. x

  2. Liz 15 June 2012 at 8:27 pm #

    This is very interesting as using co-enzyme Q10 has often been postulated as a possible agent for neuroprotection in Parkinson’s disease. Small trials in the US showed that disease progression could be slowed or symptoms relieved with higher doses of co-enzyme Q10 at doses of 1600 mg daily. However, a much larger trial in the US was abandoned as no tangible benefit could be seen in people with Parkinson’s on large doses of co-enzyme Q10. Recently, a study published in the Archives of Neuology “Prospective Study of Statin Use and Risk of Parkinson’s Disease has been published and it concludes “We found that regular use of statins was associated with a modest reduction in PD risk. The possibility that some statins may reduce PD risk deserves further consideration.” This seems to fit in well with the fact that co-enzyme Q10 is unlikely to have a role in the management of Parkinson’s.

  3. Feona 15 June 2012 at 9:09 pm #

    Less than ten years ago the consultant I’d been sent to because of my cholesterol levels solemnly informed me that there was ‘no such thing as Co-Q10, it was made up by alternative practitioners’! I wonder if he’s still a consultant? Annoyingly, my medical record says I have hypercholesterolaemia and I can’t get it removed, because a letter from the consultant is also on file.

  4. JustMEinT 15 June 2012 at 10:51 pm #

    The big pharmaceutic interests have deliberately kept the knowledge of COQ10 depletion – caused by statin drugs from the public knowledge.

    The Patent numbers you will want to look up are: Patent Number: 4,933,165 Patent Number: 4,929,437

    Below is a verbatim sample from Patent Number 4,933,165.

    “What is claimed is:

    1. A pharmaceutical composition comprising a pharmaceutical carrier and an effective antihypercholesterolemic amount of an HMG-CoA reductase inhibitor and an amount of Coenzyme Q.sub.10 effective to counteract HMG-CoA reductase inhibitor-associated skeletal muscle myopathy.

    2. A composition of claim 1 in which the HMG-CoA reductase inhibitor is selected from: lovastatin, simvastatin, pravastatin and sodium-3,5-dihydroxy-7-[3-(4-fluorophenyl)-1-(methylethyl)-1H-Indole-2yl]- hept-6-enoate.

    3. A method of counteracting HMG-CoA reductase inhibitor-associated skeletal muscle myopathy in a subject in need of such treatment which comprises the adjunct administration of a therapeutically effective amount of an HMG-CoA reductase inhibitor and an effective amount of Coenzyme Q.sub.10 to counteract said myopathy.

    4. A method of claim 3 in which the HMG-CoA reductase inhibitor is selected from the group consisting of: lovastatin, simvastatin, pravastatin and sodium-3,5-dihydroxy-7-[3-(4-fluorophenyl)-1-(methylethyl)-1H-Indole-2yl]- hept-6-enoate.”

    To access these patents: Go to the official United States Patent and Trademark Office web site at ( (We certainly hope you’ll come back to later!). From the Patent offices home page “click” on the Patents button, then “click” on “Search Patents”, then click on “Patent Number Search”. Type in the patent number (4,933,165) in the “Query Box” and “click” on the search button. The Patent number and title will show up, then just click on the patent number and you will be able to read the full documentation, including who is assigned the patent. I’ve probably made this whole search process sound harder than it really is — give it a try, you may be surprised by what you learn. ( )

    IMHO this was done deliberately. They never advised the public about cellular depletion of this essential nutrient, thereby deliberately making generations of patients very very sick and could have contributed to the dealth of innumerable people. This is criminal negelect.

    Clare in Tasmania

  5. Mie 16 June 2012 at 2:18 pm #

    You need to put this into context, of course. I can’t access the article itself, so what follows is based on

    Prescribing statins to people who had highly varied LDL-C levels (115-190 mg/DL) but no diabetes or other risk factos (and who thus didn’t seem to belong to a high risk group as a whole) isn’t recommened. The efficacy of statins in primary prevention is limited and they should only be used with high risk patients – and the benefits seem to be clearly smaller than in secondary prevention.

  6. Dr John Briffa 16 June 2012 at 2:38 pm #


    How do you think this context changes our interpretation of this study?

  7. Mie 16 June 2012 at 5:33 pm #

    It’s not the case of interpretation of the study. That’s pretty simple: one shouldn’t prescribe statins to those who aren’t likely to benefit from them. The guidelines are already pretty clear about not throwing statins around like candy. Nothing new in that field.

    It’s the case about statins being like virtually any other group of efficient pharmaceuticals. When used correctly, they work. That’s what I wanted to point out. Might seem like a silly reminder, but there’s quite a bit of statin-bashing going on on the Net and I simply wanted to remind the readers of the big picture.

  8. Dr John Briffa 16 June 2012 at 7:12 pm #


    When used correctly, they work.

    Depends what you mean by working. Over several years of treatment, the vast majority of people who take them will not benefit (as evidenced by the numbers needed to treat). I realise that this basic fact will create considerable cognitive dissonance in statin ‘believers’, but that doesn’t change the facts.

  9. Mie 16 June 2012 at 7:58 pm #

    “Over several years of treatment, the vast majority of people who take them will not benefit (as evidenced by the numbers needed to treat). I realise that this basic fact will create considerable cognitive dissonance in statin ‘believers’, but that doesn’t change the facts.”

    First of all, you seem to be unfamiliar with the concepts of NNT, RR and AR. Also with the fact that with people who already have a CV disease statins provide larger benefits than lifestyle interventions. And, of course, with the idea of how medication works: no known medicine provides benefits for all, especially when given that we’re talking about a multi-factorial, (highly) both genetically and lifetyle depended disease.

  10. Dr John Briffa 16 June 2012 at 8:19 pm #


    “Over several years of treatment, the vast majority of people who take them will not benefit (as evidenced by the numbers needed to treat). I realise that this basic fact will create considerable cognitive dissonance in statin ‘believers’, but that doesn’t change the facts.”

    First of all, you seem to be unfamiliar with the concepts of NNT

    It was precisely the NNTs for statins that was the basis for my comments above.

    Here’s a blog post that will explain NNT to you, as well as a review from, for what’s it worth, doctors who conclude that in the primary prevention setting, statins do no more good than harm.

  11. Jane 20 June 2012 at 9:54 am #

    Please would you clarify the importance of HDL/LDL ration as opposed to absolute cholesterol levels? I was put on Simvastatin a few weeks ago as my total cholesterol was 7.1, although the HDL/LDL ration was good 1.6:5.5. I now feel half-dead: weakness, memory problems, upper right abdominal pain. As of yesterday I have started taking 100mg CoQ10 as a supplement.

  12. JustMEinT 20 June 2012 at 12:06 pm #

    Jane there is absolutely no proof that lowering LDL will make you healthier.

    Statins have been linked with many serious side effects. They have been found to cause structural damage to the muscles, and this damage can continue to progress even after patients stop taking the drugs.2 Other reported effects include severe memory loss, nerve damage, trouble talking, nausea, vertigo, and a fifty percent increased risk of cancer. And while the drugs do lower cholesterol, research shows that they do absolutely nothing to lower your chances of suffering a cardiac event. A large-scale study published in 2008 found that Lipitor prevents only one heart attack per 100 users.

  13. Axel F 21 June 2012 at 12:02 am #

    This discussion on the effects of statins in primary prevention is very important. It can be very difficult to incorporate statistics into real life. Reporting relative reduction is always misleading. Therefore understanding number needed to treat is important as pointed out by others in this forum.

    However, although the efficacy of drugs in clinical trials, is measured in the number of events, it is possible that a drug influences some underlying pathohpysiological mechanism which might be of benefit later on. I´m not saying this is true for statins, but there are some studies indicating that statins may slow the atherosclerotic process.

    I pretty much agree with what Mie has written here before. I have also put down my own thoughts on the issue if you are interested:

  14. Graham 22 June 2012 at 12:51 am #

    Surely, there is a drug that will fix those side effects? right? MOAR medicine!

  15. Vanessa 26 June 2012 at 10:34 pm #

    I’d like to comment on the post by Anne, 15 June, whose father is diagnosed with ‘vascular dementia’. My mother-in-law has also been diagnosed with the same and has been on Simvastatin for some years. However, having realised that her symptoms are worse in the mornings I considered that perhaps the Simvastatin she takes in the evenings was contributing. Sure enough, having done some research, I have discovered that ‘dementia-like’ symptoms that she’s having are (increasingly more commonly, it seems) attributable to Simvastatin.It seems these side effects can take some time to show up (presumably as the cholesterol levels in the brain reduce). Have a look on the internet and you’ll be shocked – perhaps if your father can stop taking it (with the blessing of his doctor?) his ‘dementia’ might improve as it’s said to be reversible, from what I’ve read.


  16. Vanessa Schaffeler 27 June 2012 at 7:31 pm #

    Update from previous post. My partner’s sister took their mum to the consultant who is investigating her ‘dementia’ for the results of her SPECT scan today. She also took info regarding the side effects of Simvastatin and voiced her concerns. The doctor said he’d heard of this, also heard that statins aren’t really shown to be effective in women but, since she had some stents fitted a few years back, she should really stay on the drug. He said maybe the dose should be reduced….. The SPECT scan showed some slight change in both parietal lobes but he said he was puzzled as her presentation wasn’t typical of any kind of usual dementia (was he ignoring the daughter’s original assertations about the side effects of Simvastatin?) He therefore has prescribed some drug called Rivastigmine to be applied as a patch – I’ve just read about the common side effects of that one and wish I hadn’t (as she already complains of abdominal symptoms etc probably from the statin). This drug is to ‘ease symptoms of memory loss’ by ‘……increasing the amount of a natural chemical (neurotransmitters) in the brain, which is known to be lower in people suffering from dementia.’ But the memory problems caused by Simvastatin are thought to be due to diminishment of the neurotransmitters in the first place!! I would have thought the best option would be to stop the Simvastatin for a while and check on her cholesterol levels whilst observing whether her ‘dementia’ symptoms improve, rather than throwing yet another drug into the mix (oh yes, I forgot – he also prescribed Omeprazole for her abdo problems – see for how that one interacts with Simvastatin!!). How will anyone know whether any new side effects are due to the new drug(s), the combinations of all these drugs and whether the original symptoms were actually just due to Simvastatin and may have been eliminated by cessation? Before statins people were told how to reduce their cholesterol levels with diet and exercise…….

    My partner’s sister is going to ask the GP to stop the Simvastatin but the problem is that her parents have carers coming round 3 times a day to ensure that they take their medications, which are all pre-packed in special containers. We don’t live very near so it’s very difficult to be able to supervise all of this! Aaaargh!!!

  17. Kenny 4 July 2012 at 11:33 pm #

    According to vascular surgeon Dr Barry Sears, statin drugs do nothing to affect the mortality rate, therefore they are useless.

  18. Natalie 7 August 2012 at 9:19 pm #

    I just got my husband off the statins and want to put him on Co-Q10 supplement, what one should I choose I don’t want to choose a bad one. (we are already taking cod liver oil and D3)

    • Kevin 15 April 2014 at 3:34 pm #

      Hi Natalie,

      If you’re going to supplement with CoQ10 you must know that there are vast differences between quality and more importantly bio-availability of different versions. You’re going to want a bio-enhanced version. The standard dose these days is 100mg to 200mg. I recommend going to, this is a company that specializes in CoQ10. They have the most bio-enhanced versions in the world. I take the H2Q but the Q-Gel and the Quinogel are also very good along with the liquids if you’re looking to go high dose.

  19. Patti 23 September 2012 at 1:45 am #

    My knowledge on statins is limited to the impact of Lipitor on my own health. I was diagnosed in May 2012 with Type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol (Trig 255, LDL 141, HDL 32). I was put on 10mg Lipitor daily. The very same day, I put myself on a very disciplined regime of diet and exercise. I got weaker and felt worse as weeks went by. It got harder and harder to do my daily mile long walk. My coworkers told me I looked blue or grey on many days. Hear palpitations, shortness of breath started to worry me – and one morning I landed in the ER because of them…
    I saw 3 doctors in 1 week. Not a single doctor considered my statin use. My endocrinologist told me that I just wasn’t eating enough carbs (even as he told me I had brought my trigylciders to 108, and brought my A1C from 12 to 5.4 in 3 months!)
    Finally I just took things in my own hands and stopped my statin. I was back to my old self in less than 3 days. I will never take another statin again!

  20. Lesley 24 October 2012 at 12:36 am #

    I am a 57 year old woman with hypercholesterolaemia. For three years plus I have been on Statins (simvastatin). At first 20mg nightly but my cholesterol continued to rise so it was upped to 40 mg nightly. I became so unwell that I thought I was dying. I could not physically move without struggling to get my breath. It was an effort to do anything. I couldn’t walk around my front room or to the end of the garden. carry any shopping or lift my small grandchild. I had to stop evey couple of minutes to get my breath and its very depressing. I went to my GP who has taken blood.. sent me for an ECG and a chest xray which suggested COPD not confirmed it. I don’t smoke and i’ve always kept dogs, run regularly and i’m a keen gardener . Not any more because my chest hurts, my left shoulder pains me all the time and I have to deep breathe constantly and i’m tired. My GP refuses to believe its statin related so I’ve stopped taking them myself and although my symptoms have improved I’m still exhausted all the time without any effort.. my heart is racing away and I don’t know what to do. I was to have day surgery a few weeks ago for a hysteroscopy but the anaesthatist refused to give me GA because of my symptoms and my pulse was above 100 at resting. I could not pass the lung function test. , I can’t find the breath to blow up a balloon for my grandson. The anaeathetist said my GP should have sent me for an echo and I think it was related to the simvastatin. Can anyone please advise.

  21. JustMEinT 24 October 2012 at 10:08 pm #

    I would suspect that medical advice will not be given at this site… and that is as it ought to be.
    You definitely need the assistance of a medical professional who understands the damage that statins can and DO – do to a human body. Can you access the services of a different doctor or a naturopathic doctor in your area? There are also on line sites with other patients who are and have undergone similar things to what you are ezperiencing. Look up Stopped Our Statins (as an example). There are supplements you ought to be taking such as COQ10, plus many others that have been found to help reverse, over time, the damage. It is a process to recovery sadly – one that does not happen overnight as you have been damaged at the cellular level. Also read the many online writings of Doc. Graveline on Statin damage.

  22. Jose Abril 20 May 2014 at 3:18 pm #

    A very informative blog about statins and its side effects, thanks!


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