Genetics could be behind statin side effects

31 August 2017 08:22

Almost all men over 60 and women over 75 are eligible for statins

Almost all men over 60 and women over 75 are eligible for statins

A common genetic variant could be the reason some people suffer from aches and pains when taking statins, according to new research.

The study could lead to a screening method to help identify those patients who are most likely to have a bad reaction to the drugs.

Statin intolerance doubles

Millions of Britons take statins every year to lower cholesterol and reduce their risk of heart attacks and strokes. However, between 7% and 29% of users suffer from sore muscle symptoms, which can in some cases stop them using the pills.

Research undertaken at the University of Dundee found that statin intolerance was doubled when patients carried two identical copies of a common variant of the LILRB5 gene, which has an immune system and muscle repair role.

The team also confirmed that some people are genetically more likely to suffer from aching muscles regardless of whether they are taking statins.

Lead scientist Professor Colin Palmer said: "We found that there are people in the general population who carry a genetic factor that predisposes them to muscle aches. If these people are put on statins, they might discontinue their medication in the erroneous belief that it is the statin that is making their muscles ache."

Sub-group of patients

He added that the researchers also identified a genetic sub-group of patients who are susceptible to statin-specific muscle ache, however, at this stage the reason for this is not understood.

Professor Palmer suggested that in the future prospective statin users could be tested for key genetic variants, including LILRB5.

Almost 12,000 statin users took part in the Genetics of Diabetes Audit and Research Tayside Scotland (GoDARTS) study. The findings will appear in the European Heart Journal.

People with long-term, pre-existing conditions can arrange medical travel insurance should they need to travel.

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