DEC 09, 2014 7:00 AM PST

Statin Myopathy: When might it be autoimmune?




Statins are among the most commonly prescribed medications that significantly reduce cardiovascular risk in selected individuals. However, these drugs can also be associated with muscle symptoms ranging from mild myalgias to severe rhabdomyolysis.

While statin myotoxicity is usually self-limited, in some instances statin-exposed subjects can develop an autoimmune myopathy typically characterized by progressive weakness, muscle enzyme elevations, a necrotizing myopathy on muscle biopsy, and autoantibodies that recognize 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A reductase (HMGCR), the pharmacologic target of statins.

These antibodies are also found in some autoimmune myopathy patients without statin exposure. Importantly, anti-HMGCR antibodies are not found in the vast majority of statin-exposed subjects without autoimmune myopathy, including those with self-limited statin intolerance.

Thus, testing for these antibodies may help differentiate those with self-limited statin myopathy who recover after statin discontinuation from those with a progressive statin-associated autoimmune myopathy who typically require immunosuppressive therapy.

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