Think your asthma’s bad now? Try taking cholesterol meds and see how well you breathe.
Those of you who’ve “been there, done that” already know what I’m talking about — and for the rest of you, the latest research shows just how much misery you’re in for if your doc convinces you to take a statin.
Loss of lung function? Check.
Boost in rescue meds? Check.
Sleepless nights due to asthma attacks? Check.
All this and more could be in your immediate future, according to a study that compared 20 people with the condition who took the drugs to 20 asthmatics who remained off them.
At the start of the study, both groups were similar enough — with no one who needed to be treated for their asthma in the ER over the previous eight months.
But a year later, and they couldn’t be more different.
Losing your lungs
Those not on statins had the gradual loss of lung function that marks asthma, doing about 14 percent worse on lung tests than they had at the start of the study.
Those on the meds, on the other hand, fell off a cliff: They did 35 percent worse on their lung function tests. And with less space in the lungs, they had more need for their rescue inhalers — turning to them 72 percent more often than they had before they started statin therapy.
Those not on cholesterol drugs needed their rescue meds just 9 percent more often.
And, as I mentioned earlier, the patients given the meds had so much trouble breathing that they had difficulty sleeping — not to mention more bouts with asthma during the day as well.
Not the first link
If you’re an asthmatic and your doc wants you on a statin, he’ll tell you it’s just one study… and he’ll tell you it doesn’t prove a thing.
He might even tell you about his cousin’s wife’s best friend’s uncle who’s also asthmatic and breathes just fine even though he’s been taking statins for years.
Don’t believe him — believe the research instead, because other studies have also found a link between breathing problems and cholesterol meds.
One study two years ago found all the same problems: loss in lung function, lack of sleep and a need for more rescue meds. These patients also got to know their doctors much better — but for all the wrong reasons: They needed more office visits for asthma care.
That’s not the only med asthmatics need to avoid (although, for my money, everyone needs to avoid statins — whether or not they have asthma). Another new report says a common painkiller can bring extra pain to asthma patients.
Acetaminophen in asthma link
Nearly everyone has a jar of Tylenol in the medicine chest — but if you’re asthmatic, you might want to make sure you never open it.
A new report in Pediatrics points to the growing evidence that the main ingredient, acetaminophen, can cause or worsen asthma. One study found that children who took the drug just once a year had a 61 percent increase in asthma risk, while those who took it once a month had triple the risk.
In adults, it’s the same story: A meta-analysis of data on 90,000 participants in six studies found that people who took the drug once a week had 1.75 times the asthma risk.
Painkillers and statins might not have much in common beyond the increase in asthma risk. But they are similar in one regard: You don’t really need either.
If you’re an asthmatic, look for alternatives. And if you’re not an asthmatic, find those alternatives before you become one.
On a mission for your health,
Editor, House Calls