Statin use is linked to shingles infection and herpes re-activation, study says

By Celeste McGovern

A major study — strangely ignored by the mainstream media — found that statin drugs, widely prescribed for lowering cholesterol levels, are linked to an elevated risk of shingles activation.

Multiple studies have found a link between statin use and shingles in the past but the current study published in the journal, BMJ Open, is the most comprehensive to date. Pooling data from six previous studies involving more than two million participants, it found that statin use is associated with an 18% elevated risk of reactivating latent varicella-zoster virus (VZV, also known as chickenpox) to induce active shingles

Shingles infection is linked to acute and chronic pain conditions including postherpetic neuralgia caused by inflammation and destruction of nerves and can seriously impact lifestyle, particularly among the elderly.

More than one in four American adults take statins which are widely criticized for being over-prescribed to lower cholesterol to aggressively promote sales of the drugs which approach $17 billion annually in the US alone. The drugs, like Merck’s Zocor, are linked to depletion of Coenzyme Q 10,   which is ssociated with muscle pain and joint aches, and many other side-effects. The cholesterol-lowering drugs are known to modify the immune system which may explain how reactivation of a latent virus is more likely in those taking them.

“If statin use increases the risk of VZV reactivation, this adverse effect may present substantial public health implications, ” the study researchers concluded.

No doubt, doctors following pharmaceutical industry recommendations will recommend a second product to treat the side-effects of the first: take a shingles vaccine to prevent shingles while taking statins. However, in a class-action lawsuit against Merck, the maker of Zostavax shingles vaccine  (and its owner Bayer), lawyers say the vaccine only works half the time to prevent shingles but plaintiffs report it has caused shingles, chickenpox, rash and a host of more serious complications including blindness, hearing loss, paralysis, brain damage, and fatal liver failure.