Myopathy is the most common side effect of statins. Because nitric oxide (NO) has a key role in regulating skeletal muscle function, we studied whether the NO-donating atorvastatin NCX 6560 could show a better profile on skeletal muscle function and structure compared with atorvastatin.
C57BL/6 mice received atorvastatin 40 mg/kg/day or an equivalent dose of NCX 6560 for 2 months. Muscle function assessed by treadmill test, serum creatine kinase (CK) activity, citrate synthase (CS) activity, and muscle histology were evaluated.
Atorvastatin significantly (P < 0.001) reduced muscle endurance, increased serum CK by 6-fold, and induced muscle fiber atrophy. Conversely, NCX 6560 preserved muscle function, prevented CK increase and did not modify muscle structure. Interestingly, atorvastatin reduced CS activity, a marker for mitochondrial function, in gastrocnemius, diaphragm, and heart, whereas NCX 6560 prevented such decrease.
These findings suggest that NO may prevent statin-induced myopathy.