Using Crestor — and all statins — safely

Published: March, 2014

Some simple steps can help minimize or avoid muscle problems from Crestor and other cholesterol-lowering drugs.

All drugs have side effects. The trick is to weigh the potential for serious side effects against the gain you can get from the medication. The balance sheet for Crestor and other statins looks like this: These drugs cut the risk of heart attack, angina (chest pain), stroke, and death from cardiovascular disease by 30%. They cause muscle pain in under 5% of the people who take them, and these pains often stop by themselves even with continued statin use. The chance of rhabdomyolysis, a potentially deadly breakdown of muscle tissue, is less than one per million statin prescriptions.

Some people are more prone to muscle problems from Crestor and other statins than others. You are in this category if you

  • are over age 80
  • have a small body frame or are frail
  • have kidney disease
  • drink a lot of grapefruit juice
  • take other medications (for a list, ask your doctor or pharmacist.)

If any of these apply to you, it's prudent to start with a low-dose statin and slowly work your way up to what's needed to get your cholesterol to a safe level while having your doctor closely monitor you for problems.

Muscle pains and aches are part of everyday life for some. Figuring out if these are due to a statin can be tricky.

Statin-related muscle problems usually appear within a few weeks of starting the drug. Be aware of muscle pain, cramps, stiffness, spasms, and weakness that can't be explained by arthritis, recent strenuous exercise, a fever, a fall, or other common causes. If any of these occur, tell your doctor right away — don't wait until your next scheduled appointment. He or she might lower your statin dose, take you off another medication that could be reacting with the statin, or stop the statin altogether. Sometimes just taking a break, then restarting the same statin at the same dose is enough to make the problem disappear. Your doctor might also suggest switching to another statin.

The advantage of having seven statins on the market is that each one has a unique chemical composition. These differences mean that one statin may cause you trouble while another may work flawlessly for you. In addition to Crestor, the other statins are Lescol (fluvastatin), Lipitor (atorvastatin), Mevacor (lovastatin), Livalo (pitavastatin), Pravachol (pravastatin), and Zocor (simvastatin).

While it's impossible to differentiate what pain is truly caused by a statin and what are the normal aches and pains of getting older, it's important to report unexplainable muscle pain to your doctor.

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