Harvard Heart Letter

Muscle problems caused by statins: Can a genetic test reveal your risk?

A mail-order saliva test marketed to consumers may make some promises it can't deliver.

statin-muscle-pain

A new mail-order genetic test called StatinSmart bills itself as the first test to identify a person's risk of experiencing muscle pain from a statin. That sounds like potentially helpful information, given that up to half of people who are prescribed statins quit taking them because of perceived side effects—most often muscle pain. Others avoid statins altogether because of that worry.

But here's the rub: muscle problems can range from mild to serious, and the terms experts use to describe them can be confusing. The StatinSmart website says 29% of people who take a statin develop "statin-induced myopathy," which they define as muscle aches, pains, weakness, or cramps.

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