Genetic Testing for Statins and Prevention of a Heart Attack

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What Are Statins?

This article discusses genetic testing for statins and prevention of a heart attack. But first, let’s briefly explain statins. Statins are a type of drug that is often used to lower bad (or LDL) cholesterol. As increased levels of LDL-cholesterol are closely linked to a variety of cardiovascular conditions, including heart attacks, statins are commonly used as preventive medicine towards these diseases. Statins work by inhibiting the first enzyme in the pathway that will eventually produce cholesterol.

Despite being widely used, statins can elicit some undesirable side-effects, such as:

  • Muscle cramps, or sore muscles.
  • In the worst cases, myopathy can ensue use of statins, potentially leading to the breakdown of skeletal muscles.

The chance of experiencing these side-effects increases if the statins are used in combination with other drugs, specifically fibrates, a type of lipid-lowering drug.

Genetic Testing

With the progress in genetics and the specific field of genetic testing, some discoveries have been made that prove to be useful for people taking statins for lowering their cholesterol.

  • For example, research has shown that people who posses a certain genetic variation in the targeted enzyme are less sensitive to statins.
  • Other studies have identified genetic mutations that made people more responsive to statin therapy.
  • Still other researchers have found gene variants that provide clues about the susceptibility of the side-effect that potentially accompany statin use.

This link between genetic testing for statins and prevention of a heart attack is a serious step towards personalized medicine. In the near future, it is not inconceivable that people who have trouble due to an elevated cholesterol level have their relevant genetic factors for statin therapy profiled.

Based on this genetic knowledge, the amount of statins required, the specific drug that elicits the best results and an accurate estimate of the risk of potential side-effects could all be determined with a better precision than today. Each person could have a personalized regimen of statin use, based on the sensitivity to the drug and susceptibility to side-effects. Needless to say that this provides ample benefits, such as preventing adverse effects of the use of statins and using the exactly correct dose required by every person. So, there certainly is a connection between genetic testing and prevention of a heart attack.


  • Chasman, D.I.; Posada, D.; Subrahmanyan, L.; Cook, N.R.; Stanton, V.P. & Ridker, P.M. (2004). Pharmacogenetic study of statin therapy and cholesterol reduction. Journal of the American Medical Association. 291(23), pp. 2821 – 2827.
  • Henderson, M. First step to personalized medicine as statin users offered genetic tests. Times Online (Septmeber 25, 2009).
  • Link, E.; Parish, S.; Armitage, J.; Bowman, L.; Heath, S.; Matsuda, F.; Gut, I.; Lathrop, M.; Collins, R. & SEARCH Collaborative Group. (2008). SLCO1B1 variants and statin-induced myopathy – a genomewide study. New England Journal of Medicine. 359(8), pp. 789 – 799.
  • Silva, M.A.; Swanson, A.C.; Gandhi, P.J. & Tataronis, G.H. (2006). Statin-related adverse events: a meta-analysis. Clinical Therapy. 28(1), pp. 26 – 35.