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Atorvastatin (Lipitor®) lowers CoenzymeQ10 levels in patients at risk of cardiovascular disease

A study published in the June 2004 issue of the American Medical Association journal Archives of Neurology has found that even brief exposure to the statin drug atorvastatin markedly lowers blood plasma levels of Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10). Lipitor® is the trademarked brand name of atorvastatin calcium.

Coenzyme Q10 is an antioxidant made in the body whose production declines with age. In addition to its role as an antioxidant, CoQ10 is a component of the mitochondrial respiratory chain and acts as a cell membrane stabilizer. Therefore, anything that reduces Coenzyme Q10 levels could have significant adverse effects.

Researchers at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York studied 45 men and women with elevated low-density lipoprotein levels (a risk factor for cardiovascular disease) who received 80 milligrams oral atorvastatin for thirty days. After two weeks and at the study's conclusion, the participants were examined for changes in liver enzymes, kidney function and any adverse effects, including muscle pain or weakness. Plasma levels of Coenzyme Q10 were measured at the beginning of the study, and at 14 and 30 days.

In all participants, Coenzyme Q10 levels were lower at both 14 and 30 days than at the beginning of the study. Following two weeks of treatment with atorvastatin, plasma CoQ10 levels in thirty-two participants were reduced by 49 percent. After thirty days, the mean CoQ10 concentration was reduced from 1.26 micrograms per milliliter to 0.62 micrograms per milliliter.

The findings could explain the most common adverse effects of statins, particularly muscle pain, exercise intolerance and myoglobinuria. The authors recommend that, “it may be reasonable to supplement CoQ10 in patients receiving long-term treatment with statins in general, and atorvastatin (Lipitor®) in particular. This recommendation is strengthened by the general experience that oral CoQ10—even in high doses—is well tolerated by patients.”

Lipitor® is the trademarked brand name of atorvastatin calcium.
Lipitor® is a registered trademark of Pfizer, Inc.


Rundek T et al, “Atorvastatin decreases the coenzyme Q10 level in the blood of patients at risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke,” Arch Neur , vol 16, June 2004, p 884-92. http://archneur.ama-assn.org/

Key concepts: Coenzyme Q10, statin drugs, atorvastatin side effects, Lipitor®side effects, LDL cholesterol