Many people taking statin-type cholesterol-lowering medicine complain of muscle pain or weakness. Doctors often turn to a blood test to detect signs of drug toxicity. Specifically, they look for elevated levels of creatine phosphokinase to determine whether symptoms are truly a side effect of the medication. A new study shows, however, that statin-associated muscle pain is linked to microscopic damage of muscle fibers. Only one of the many patients with that type of structural change had a severely elevated level of creatine phosphokinase. This suggests that doctors may need to take muscle pain related to statins more seriously and not just rely on a blood test to determine muscle damage and drug toxicity.
[CMAJ, July 7, 2009]