Statin-induced myotoxicity: Pharmacokinetic differences among statins and the risk of rhabdomyolysis, with particular Reference to pitavastatin

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3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A reductase inhibitors (statins) are the most widely prescribed therapeutic class of drugs worldwide, with established clinical benefits both in terms of improving serum lipid profiles and reducing cardiovascular events and mortality. Although statins have a favorable risk-to-benefit ratio, they have the potential to cause adverse events which can result in muscular inflammation (myositis), muscle breakdown (rhabdomyolysis) and, ultimately, kidney failure. While the incidence of rhabdomyolysis is approximately 3.4 cases per 100,000 person-years with standard-dose statin therapy, the risk of developing the condition increases substantially at higher therapeutic doses. This effect may be exacerbated by prescribing statins in combination with certain other medications because drug-drug interactions increase statin exposure by interacting with enzymes that would normally be involved in their metabolism and clearance. Co-administration of drugs that inhibit the cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzymes responsible for metabolizing statins, or that interact with the organic anion-transporting polypeptides (OATPs) responsible for statin uptake into hepatocytes, substantially increases the risk of developing myotoxicity. Such effects vary among statins according to their metabolic profile. For example, pitavastatin, a novel statin approved for the treatment of hypercholesterolemia and combined (mixed) dyslipidemia, is not catabolized by CYP3A4, unlike other lipophilic statins, and may be less dependent on the OATP1B1 transporter for its uptake into hepatocytes before clearance. Such differences in drug-drug interaction profiles among available statins offer the possibility of reducing the risk of myotoxicity among high-risk patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)257-267
Number of pages11
JournalCurrent Vascular Pharmacology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2012


  • Atorvastatin
  • Drug-drug interactions
  • Kidney failure
  • Lovastatin
  • Myotoxicity
  • Pitavastatin
  • Pravastatin
  • Rhabdomyolysis
  • Rosuvastatin
  • Simvastatin
  • Statin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Pharmacology


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