Statins: a blessing, a curse or a necessary evil?

Everyone produces two main types of cholesterol – good (HDL) cholesterol and bad (LDL) cholesterol.

The good cholesterol is responsible for moving the bad cholesterol away from the heart and therefore helps prevent heart disease. If there is too much LDL cholesterol in the body, there is a greater risk of heart disease because it causes the arteries around the heart to become blocked. In these cases, doctors often prescribe a class of medications called Statins to help keep the patient’s cholesterol under control.

Statins help lower blood cholesterol levels by blocking the action of a liver enzyme which produces cholesterol. Although the medication is intended to help reduce the risk of heart disease, statins are notorious for causing many negative side effects. There are different statin medications available to take which have been reported to have different side effects, however, the answer of which statin and what dosage is best for you could lie within your DNA.

Common side effects of statin medications include headaches, blood sugar spikes and muscle and joint pain. In rare cases statins can cause statin-induced myopathy which is described as sever aches, pains and cramps in the muscles. “The side effects can cause patients to stop taking the drug because it affects their daily life,” said Dr Danny Meyersfeld, CEO of DNAlysis Biotechnology. “If DNA testing can help a patient understand which medications are safer to take, we may be able to adjust how people perceive statins and their hesitations when prescribed the medications.”

There are concerns that long-term statin use may cause a patient to develop memory problems, type two diabetes or liver problems, and, even though other factors may play a role, the risk is sufficiently high that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a warning on statin labels regarding blood glucose levels and diabetes. There are a number of medications and foods that clash with statin medications and this needs to be taken into consideration when prescribing statins to a patient. “DNA testing allows the patient to preemptively understand the response that their body might have to certain type of statin, and allows their doctor to adjust both dosage, and choice of drug, accordingly,” said Dr Meyersfeld.

The way in which an individual responds to statin medication lies within a gene coded by SLCO1B1. This gene is responsible for helping the body metabolise statin medication, and variations in this gene could be responsible for some of the associated side effects. “These gene variants reflect within the DNA test results. So if a patient has variations in the SLCO1B1 gene, their doctor can take this into consideration when prescribing them a certain statin medication,” said Dr Meyersfeld.

If you and your doctor are considering adding statin medication to your daily routine, order DNAlysis Biotechnology’s Medcheck test to find out more about your genes on the website: