by Sayer Ji

Research revealing the broad spectrum toxicity of statin drugs continues to accumulate unabated.  A new study reveals that these cholesterol-lowering drugs may be contributing to an epidemic of arthritis and autoimmunity in exposed populations, adding to a growing body of clinical evidence that they may cause over 300 adverse health effects.

Published this month in the journal Arthritis Research & Therapy, and titled “Statins accelerate the onset of collagen type II-induced arthritis in mice,” researchers found that 100% of the animals given statin drugs developed arthritis and markers of autoimmunity versus 58% in the control population who did not receive them.[1]

The study was performed in the wake of an observational study showing that statin drug use was associated with an increased risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.[2]  The researchers hypothesized that statin drug use may eventually lead to dysregulation of immune responses, possibly resulting in autoimmunity.  This finding does not come as a great surprise considering that statins have already been linked to lupus-like syndrome,[3] as well as immune-mediated necrotizing myopathy.[4]

Because atherosclerosis is known to have an autoimmune component, the emerging connection between statins and autoimmunity may undermine the justification for their continued use in the primary prevention of heart disease. Lesions form in an artery only after the body’s immune system snowballs out of control. White blood cells (macrophages and T-lymphoctyles) infiltrate the damaged area in an attempt to heal it, absorbing oxidized-LDL in the process, and eventually depositing in the artery wall as foam cells, triggering more white blood cells to infiltrate in a vicious cycle.

The blood work of heart disease patients has also shown elevations of a well-known marker of autoimmunity in the blood, namely, antinuclear antibodies.[5] What is more concerning is that statin drugs have been shown to induce elevations of these same antibodies,[6]not only calling into question their utility in preventing heart disease, but implicating them as potentially cardiotoxic agents.

Indeed, the cardiotoxicity of statin drugs was demonstrated back in 2009 when the journal of Clinical Cardiology showed that statin drugs actually weaken the heart muscle.[7] In addition, the statin drugs research page now contains 76 studies indicating the myotoxicity (muscle-damaging) effect of statins and 53 studies indicating their neurotoxicity (nerve-damaging). Since the heart is a highly innervated muscle, using them for “protecting” the heart is an insurmountable contradiction.

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[1] Statins accelerate the onset of collagen type II-induced arthritis in mice. Arthritis Res Ther. 2012 Apr 26 ;14(2):R90. Epub 2012 Apr 26. PMID: 22537858

[2] Use of statins is associated with an increased risk of rheumatoid arthritis. Ann Rheum Dis. 2011 Oct 6. Epub 2011 Oct 6. PMID: 21979000

[3] Association Between Statin Use and Lupus-Like Syndrome Using Spontaneous Reports. Semin Arthritis Rheum. 2011 Aug 23. Epub 2011 Aug 23. PMID: 21868063

[4] Autoimmune myopathies: autoantibodies, phenotypes and pathogenesis.Nat Rev Neurol. 2011 Jun ;7(6):343-54. Epub 2011 Jun 8. PMID: 21654717

[5] More Evidence that Atherosclerosis Is An Autoimmune Disease?

[6] [Polymyositis induced or associated with lipid-lowering drugs: five cases].Rev Med Interne. 2004 Apr ;25(4):294-8. PMID: 15050796

[7] Statin therapy decreases myocardial function as evaluated via strain imaging. Clin Cardiol. 2009 Dec;32(12):684-9. PMID: 20027659

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