Your DNA Could be Problematic for Statins

High cholesterol patients screened for SLC01B1 gene

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Statins are widely prescribed to lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Though effective, some doctors have become concerned about a rare gene that increases the risk of muscle aches, kidney damage and death in those who also take statins.

Vanderbilt University Medical Center physicians have announced that they will begin regularly screening patients who take statins for the genetic variation.

"Ask your doctor if you should be tested if you take statins."

Evidence suggests that about 2 percent of patients who take 80 milligrams daily of common statin Zocor (simvastatin) will experience muscle aches that could lead to damage of the muscles and more severe consequences.

Dr. Dan Roden, assistant vice chancellor for personalized medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, noted that the risk of developing complications is increased even if a patient carries even a single genetic variation. He said that patients who carry two copies of the SLC01B1 gene are at a nearly 20-fold increased risk of muscle toxicity.

“We’re just reducing the odds. That’s what applying genetics at the bedside is all about. It expands what you know about the individual patient” Dr. Roden said.

Vanderbilt is the first academic medical center to offer the genetic variant screening. It is part of its personalized medicine initiative called PREDICT. The program will initially be offered in the medical center's primary care and cardiology clinics.

Following the genetic test, the results will be added to a patient's medical record. Health care providers will be alerted before being able to prescribe Zocor if the patient is found to be at an added risk.

The PREDICT initiative was designed to tailor drug therapy based on a patient's genetic makeup to ensure patients are more likely to receive the correct medication the first time.

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Review Date: 
November 4, 2011
Last Updated:
November 4, 2011