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Genetic link to statin side effect

Gene may determine the extent of adverse effects from cholesterol-lowering statins
WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Farah Ahmed

29th August 2013 - A gene that may be linked to the chances of developing a rare side effect from taking cholesterol-lowering statins has been identified.

According to new research, a genetically determined variation in the gene called glycine amidinotransferase (GATM) may be linked to statin-induced myopathy - a weakening of muscles.

Rare side effect

Statins are widely prescribed to lower cholesterol levels and cardiovascular disease risk, but there is considerable variation in how patients respond to the treatment and in their vulnerability to adverse effects, which may be influenced in part by genetics.

Statin-induced myopathy affects around 1 in 10,000 people who take statins each year.

Myopathy is a term to describe muscle symptoms ( fatigue, muscle pain, muscle tenderness, muscle weakness, nocturnal cramping and tendon pain) plus creatine kinase levels that are more than 10 times the upper limit of the normal range. Creatine kinase is an enzyme found in muscle cells that can leak out into the plasma when muscle is damaged.

Personalised approach

This new research by Lara Mangravite and colleagues, builds on a study led by the British Heart Foundation's Professor Sir Rory Collins, which identified another gene associated with the risk of developing myopathy when taking statins.

In response to the research in a statement, Dr Shannon Amoils, senior research advisor at the charity says: "Statins provide huge benefits for cardiovascular health and are safely prescribed to millions of people worldwide. They have an excellent safety profile, but do come with a small increased risk of developing muscle weakness.

"The research group have identified a variation in a section of DNA which appears to be associated with the risk of developing muscle problems when taking statins. Improving our understanding of why a small group of people responds differently to statin treatment is important, and could lead to a more personalised approach to prescribing therapies in the future.

"The benefits of statins far outweigh the risk of side effects, but if you have concerns about statins, the best thing you can do is talk to your doctor."

The findings have been published in the journal Nature.

Reviewed on August 29, 2013

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