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Despite Side Effects from Statin Drugs, Patients Can Control Cholesterol with Right Treatment, Loyola Study Finds

MAYWOOD, Ill. - Up to 15 percent of patients who take cholesterol-lowering statin medications experience muscle pain or other side effects, and many patients simply stop taking the drugs.

But a Loyola University Medical Center study has found that “statin-intolerant” patients still can significantly reduce their cholesterol by going to a lipid clinic staffed with physicians specially trained in treating cholesterol problems.

Among 22 statin-intolerant patients referred to Loyola’s Lipid Clinic, total cholesterol dropped from 257 mg/dL to 198 mg/dL. And LDL (“bad”) cholesterol dropped from 172 mg/dL to 123 mg/dL, the study found.

By comparison, in a control group of 21 statin-intolerant patients who were not referred to a lipid clinic, total cholesterol dropped by only 3 points and LDL cholesterol dropped by only 1 point.

“Statin intolerance can be a significant barrier to patients in meeting their cholesterol goals,” said Binh An P. Phan, MD, senior author of the study. “Referring to a formal lipid clinic may be an effective strategy to help improve cholesterol treatment in this challenging population."

Findings were presented at the 2013 National Lipid Association Scientific Sessions by Taishi Hirai, MD, a co-author of the study.

Clinical trials of statins have reported low rates of side effects. But patient surveys conducted in real-world settings have found that as many as 15 percent of patients experience side effects. The most common side effect is muscle soreness, fatigue or weakness.

At Loyola’s Lipid Clinic, a cardiologist who has received advanced training in lipidology (cholesterol management) performs an in-depth evaluation of a patient’s statin intolerance and prepares a tailored treatment regimen. Properly adjusting a patient’s medication can enable the patient to continue taking statins. The physician adjusts medication by, for example, switching to a different statin or changing the dose or frequency of the drug, Phan said.

Phan is medical director of Loyola’s Preventive Cardiology and Lipid Program, which helps prevent heart attacks and other cardiac-related disorders and provides advanced treatment of cholesterol disorders.
Phan is an assistant professor in the Division of Cardiology of Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.

Loyola University Health System (LUHS) is a member of Trinity Health. Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, LUHS is a quaternary care system with a 61-acre main medical center campus, the 36-acre Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus and more than 30 primary and specialty care facilities in Cook, Will and DuPage counties. The medical center campus is conveniently located in Maywood, 13 miles west of the Chicago Loop and 8 miles east of Oak Brook, Ill. The heart of the medical center campus is a 559-licensed-bed hospital that houses a Level 1 Trauma Center, a Burn Center and the Ronald McDonald® Children's Hospital of Loyola University Medical Center. Also on campus are the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Loyola Outpatient Center, Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine and Loyola Oral Health Center as well as the LUC Stritch School of Medicine, the LUC Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. Loyola's Gottlieb campus in Melrose Park includes the 255-licensed-bed community hospital, the Professional Office Building housing 150 private practice clinics, the Adult Day Care, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park.

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