What is Medication-induced Mitochondrial Damage?
Having a healthy mitochondria is vital for the proper functioning and efficacy of drugs, as these cellular powerhouses play a crucial role in drug metabolism and response within the body. Prescription medications have now emerged as a major cause of mitochondrial damage. Many classes of drugs have been documented to damage mitochondria and mitochondrial damage is now thought to be the underlying mechanism by which many drug side effects occur.
Drug classes shown to cause mitochondrial damage include:
- Statin drugs
- Antiviral drugs
- Pain medications
- Epilepsy medications
Symptoms of Medication-induced mitochondrial damage may include:
- Peripheral neuropathy
- Chronic fatigue
- Muscle pain (myopathy)
- Cognitive impairment
- Kidney damage
How are Prescription Drugs Linked to Mitochondrial Dysfunction?
One of the original models for medication-induced mitochondrial damage dates back to the original class of HIV/AIDS medications known as reverse transcriptase inhibitors.
Several of these drugs (D4T, DDI, AZT), while effective at suppressing the replication of the HIV virus, were also highly effective at poisoning the mitochondria in a variety of cells, including those of the nerves, heart and immune system.
It has also recently been demonstrated that major classes of bactericidal antibiotics (quinolones, aminoglycosides, and β-lactams), induce a common oxidative damage death pathway in bacteria, leading to the production of lethal reactive oxygen species (ROS) via disruption of the Kreb’s cycle and electron transport chain. It makes sense that antibiotics might damage the mitochondria since they are believed to have originally descended from bacteria.
Many side effects from cancer chemotherapy drugs have also been linked to damaging effects on the mitochondria. In addition to directly causing peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage), toxic effects of chemotherapy drugs on the mitochondria may also contribute to fatigue and decreased cognitive function in patients after they receive chemotherapy.
References:  Neustadt, J., & Pieczenik, S. (2008). Medication-induced mitochondrial damage and disease. Molecular nutrition & food research. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18626887/#:~:text=Medications%20have%20now%20emerged%20as,as%20acetaminophen%2C%20and%20many%20others.
 Neustadt, J., & Pieczenik, S. (2008). Medication-induced mitochondrial damage and disease. Molecular nutrition & food research. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18626887/#:~:text=Medications%20have%20now%20emerged%20as,as%20acetaminophen%2C%20and%20many%20others.
 Das, A., Ranadive, N., Kinra, M., Nampoothiri, M., Arora, D., & Mudgal, J. (2020). An overview on chemotherapy-induced cognitive impairment and potential role of antidepressants. Current neuropharmacology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7569321/