The Dark Side of Statins

Recently I have received information from a former Navy flight surgeon, who states, "You could not force a statin pill into my mouth."

Her story began soon after her assignment to a Navy base as a flight surgeon, when she began to encounter side effect complaints from patients on Statins. As she researched this issue her attention was soon drawn to CoQ10 and the fact that it was seriously inhibited by the effect of statin drugs on the mevalonate pathway and no doubt the cause of many of the problems.

Therapeutic trials of CoQ10 were often successful but naturally she wondered why CoQ10 was not given routinely with all statins since this CoQ10 inhibition was inevitable. Meanwhile this new Navy flight surgeon soon drew considerable attention to herself by not giving statin drugs when her colleagues routinely were and by insisting that all patients on statins should be on CoQ10.

In the bureaucracy of Navy medicine, flaunting standardized procedures is not without its costs but her research continued. She found that Merck had applied for and received two patents to help offset the harmful effects of statin drugs on people by the use of CoQ10.

But what followed was even more surprising when she discovered that despite Merck's obvious awareness of the CoQ10 deficiency problem, not one word of this was disclosed by Merck to the doctors prescribing this medicine.

The Physician's Desk Reference on every physician's desk and inserts with every pill package made no mention of the harm to come from statin inhibition of CoQ10 synthesis. In other words, Merck was not giving full and complete disclosure of the facts about statins to the nation's doctors. Physicians were being forced to give statins in accordance with established procedures despite evidence of harm to come, not by possible reduction of CoQ10 from mevalonate blocking but inevitable inhibition of CoQ10 synthesis.

She then began to conclude that fully 60% of statin side effects occurred because of this. Insufficient CoQ10 was the basis not only of liver inflammation but of statin associated heart failure, fatigue, myopathy, neuropathy and rhabdomyolysis.

Her findings were in complete agreement with my own but both of us wondered why restoration of CoQ10 was only partially effective, if at all? Why did our myopathies, neuropathies and muscle degenerative conditions seem permanent?

We agreed there had to be more to this story. The answer lay with the research community as papers began to be published in scientific journals pointing towards mitochondrial mutations resulting from statin damage to DNA.

The work of Wikhe, published in Australian Biochemical Society Transactions,Volume 35, (2007)  was particularly compelling, demonstrating dramatic DNA changes in yeast cells exposed to statin drugs. At about this same time Aleksandra Trifunovic of the Karolinska Institute in Sweden demonstrated premature aging of transgenic mice fed statin drugs (Nature Oct 2007). 

She found that subsequent tests of their brain, heart and liver cells revealed three to five times more errors in their mitochondrial DNA as in that of normal mice.  Statin drugs had destroyed mitochondrial failsafe measures. It was our reading of these papers with their irrefutable proof of statin damage to DNA that we both formulated the mitochondrial mutation hypothesis. No wonder CoQ10 could not reverse this damage!

Mitochondria, the powerhouse of every cell, the essence of existence, were being damaged by statin drugs. This is truly the dark side of statins for what could be worse than a drug so subtle in effect it could masquerade as premature aging. No wonder the standard physician response to statin complaints from worried patients was, "You have to expect this kind of thing now; you are over fifty."

Many have been robbed of years of useful life by the harmful effect of CoQ10 deficiency. With anti-oxidation ability overwhelmed by CoQ10 lack, the process of oxidation within mitochondria runs unchecked, damaging adjacent DNA.  Just as in Trifonovic's transgenic mice, even the daily process of DNA error detection and correction is compromised by coexisting dolichol reduction by statins. How dark must it be before we wake up?

Duane Graveline MD MPH
Former USAF Flight Surgeon
Former NASA Astronaut
Retired Family Doctor