The Nation's Health + [Statin drugs]

Statin drugs: Statin drugs and Coenzyme Q10

I am continually impressed at how few of my colleagues take advantage of a wonderful nutritional supplement, Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10).

Despite some of the recent backlash against statin agents, I do believe that they serve a role. I take issue with the pharmaceutical industry's endless advertising and force-feeding of drugs to the public and to physicians. Nonetheless, statin agents do serve a purpose.

If you go to your doctor with a fever of 103 degrees, coughing up thick yellow sputum, and you are struggling to breathe, would you refuse an antibiotic for pneumonia? Probably not. But an antibiotic for a sore throat may be a different matter.

So it goes with the statin drugs, too. An otherwise healthy 50-year-old woman with an LDL cholesterol of 140 mg/dl probably does not need a statin drug. A 35-year-old man with heterozygous hypercholesterolemia with an LDL cholesterol of 280 mg/dl, who will develop his first heart attack within the next 2 or 3 years, does need these drugs. The rub, of course, is deciding who in between also needs them.

Let's just accept that some people do indeed need a statin drug for one reason or another. How common are the muscle aches?

Healthcare

In my experience, muscle aches are inevitable . The longer you take a statin drug, the more likely you will develop them. The higher the dose, the more likely.

Thankfully, for most people muscle aches are more of a nuisance than a real danger. Usually, a reduced dose of the drug, periodic breaks from the drug (we often advise one or two weeks off every three months), or a change to another agent helps.

However, in my view, coenzyme Q10 provides a virtual antidote to most of the muscle aches and weakness. A recent review was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiologist that concluded that there was insufficient evidence to support the use of CoQ10 for this purpose. Obviously, the authors do not use CoQ10 in everyday practice. If they did, they would have no doubt whatsoever that CoQ10 provides the majority of people with complete relief of the muscle complaints.

Time and time again, I have witnessed complete relief from muscle aches and muscle weakness from statin drugs using CoQ10. However, in our experience, a dose of at least 100 mg per day needs to be maintained. Occasionally, a higher dose will be necessary, e.g., 300 mg per day. The preparation also must--MUST--be an oil-based gelcap to work (just like vitamin D). The capsules that contain powder are so poorly absorbed that they usually fail to yield the needed effects.

Pictured is the Sam's Club (Members' Mark brand) that has served us well, providing reliable effects at a reasonable price. (CoQ10 is expensive, no matter where you buy it. That's the only drawback I'm aware of.) GNC has a great preparation, as does Life Extension. Just be sure it is a gelcap, not a capsule filled with powder.

There's more to CoQ10 than relief of statin muscle aches. More about that in future.