Statin induced myopathy and myalgia: time trend analysis and comparison of risk associated with statin class from 1991-2006

PLoS One. 2008 Jun 25;3(6):e2522. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0002522.


Background: Statins are widely used as a cholesterol lowering medication, reduce cardiovascular mortality and morbidity in high risk patients; and only rarely cause serious adverse drug reactions (ADRs). UK primary care databases of morbidity and prescription data, which now cover several million people, have potential for more powerful analytical approaches to study ADRs including adjusting for confounders and examining temporal effects.

Methods: Case-crossover design in detecting statin associated myopathy ADR in 93, 831 patients, using two independent primary care databases (1991-2006). We analysed risk by drug class, by disease code and cumulative year, exploring different cut-off exposure times and confounding by temporality.

Results: Using a 12 and 26 week exposure period, large risk ratios (RR) are associated with all classes of statins and fibrates for myopathy: RR 10.6 (9.8-11.4) and 19.9 (17.6-22.6) respectively. At 26 weeks, the largest risks are with fluvastatin RR 33.3 (95% CI 16.8-66.0) and ciprofibrate (with previous statin use) RR 40.5 (95% CI 13.4-122.0). AT 12 weeks the differences between cerivastatin and atorvastatin RR for myopathy were found to be significant, RR 2.05 (95% CI 1.2-3.5), and for rosuvastatin and fluvastatin RR 3.0 (95% CI 1.6-5.7). After 12 months of statin initiation, the relative risk for myopathy for all statins and fibrates increased to 25.7 (95% CI 21.8-30.3). Furthermore, this signal was detected within 2 years of first events being recorded. Our data suggests an annual incidence of statin induced myopathy or myalgia of around 11.4 for 16, 591 patients or 689 per million per year.

Conclusion: There may be differential risks associated with some classes of statin and fibrate. Myopathy related to statin or fibrate use may persist after a long exposure time (12 months or more). These methods could be applied for early detection of harmful drug side effects, using similar primary care diagnostic and prescribing data.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Adverse Drug Reaction Reporting Systems
  • Aged
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / adverse effects*
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / classification
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscular Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • United Kingdom
  • United States


  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors