Do statins cause fatigue?
Statins may be associated with fatigue and exertional intolerance, according to a small study from UC San Diego. Researchers randomized just over 1000 patients (692 men and 324 women) to simvastatin 20 mg (lipophilic statin), pravastatin 40 mg (hydrophilic statin), or placebo for 6 months. The outcomes were self-ratings of change in baseline in "energy" and "fatigue with exertion." Statin users were more likely to report worsening energy and fatigue compared to placebo (P = 0.002) Fatigue and exertional intolerance was worse with simvastatin compared to pravastatin (simvastatin, P = 0.03; pravastatin, P = 0.01). Women were more severely affected than men. The authors acknowledge that these findings are based on small numbers and findings are provisional. However, they also state that "this is the first randomized evidence of affirming unfavorable statin effects on energy and exertional fatigue." They further suggest that these effects "germane to quality of life, merit consideration when prescribing or contemplating use of statins, particularly in groups without expected morbidity/mortality benefit." (Arch Intern Med published online June 11, 2012. doi: 10.1001/archinternmed.2012.2171). The study also raises the potential issue of increased adverse effects of lipophilic statins such as simvastatin. The various risks and benefits of lipophilicity have been debated for years. It is clear that highly lipophilic statins, such as the now removed cerivastatin (Baycol), may have more muscle toxicity, and may have more CNS adverse effects as well. Of currently marketed statins, simvastatin is the most lipophilic, while pravastatin and rosuvastatin are the least.