Q. I have read about how people experience muscle pain with Zetia and statin-type cholesterol drugs. That happened to me as well. My doctor prescribed TriCor instead and it has lowered my cholesterol and triglycerides. Maybe this will help someone else.

A. TriCor (fenofibrate) works differently from statins and Zetia. It can be an effective cholesterol-lowering drug that rarely causes muscle pain.

As with many other cholesterol medications, liver enzymes should be monitored. Gallstones are another possible complication. TriCor is pricey, though, and can cost over $100 a month.

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  1. Bonaventure

    I have high cholesterol, and my doctor placed me on a statin drug, which caused me chest pain, breathing difficulty, high ck and back pain. I am off statins for two years now but, my ck is still high. The chest pain, breathing problems, and back pain are still there after 3 months of prednisone.

  2. Clr

    Stopped taking my statin do to unexplained polyneurapathy. Cholesterol level skyrocketed to 415 with LDL level of 345! Was never that high when I started on the drug. Is this due to a rebound effect of stopping the drug? Has anyone had this happen to them?

  3. Os

    I am 45 years old and have been through the same symptoms after being on Lovaza for about 6 months. My doc keeps telling me the same, will be going to a specialist. Any update on your situation? Best, Os

  4. Steve H.

    If LH has still been commenting on statins, I would like to follow up regarding diet and exercise. I also have gallstone issues all of a sudden and believe it might very well be related to statins. I have no other risk factors and believe the drug companies are keeping this one on the hush.
    Steve H

  5. PAT

    I read recently that there was a name for the muscle problem people experience from statins and a medication you could take to counter-act it. I thought I read it in your column but failed to cut it out. If not in your column any suggestions?

  6. Carmen D

    I took Lipitor 10mg for over fifteen years. I developed a severe rash all over my body – scratching and bleeding all the time – never thought that it could be Lipitor – it seems that I am highly allergic to all statin meds. I started taking zetia about 5 weeks ago and now have a rash and scratch constantly – also taking lovaza 1,000 mg 2 pills 2x a day. I’m at my wits end. Please help!!!

  7. RHS

    My doctors have tried three different kinds of statins on me to try to lower my cholestrol and each caused such excruciating muscle pain that I had mobility problems. A friend who has two sons who are MD’s recommended I use time release Niacin, available at Costco, and I’ve been taking it for three months with no side effects.I will have blood tests next week to see if my LDL and HDL have benefitted from this regimen as much as my friend did. I’m taking 3,000mg a day.
    Anyone taking high doses of niacin MUST be under medical supervision and have liver enzymes checked periodically!

  8. Donna

    I was on Zocor and Zetia they both cause sever muscle and joint pains.

  9. ann

    I have been on tricor for 2years when I started having leg cramps. My Dr.took me off this medicine and I’m feeling much better not having the muscle cramps. I will not take anymore drugs for cholesterol.

  10. Stephanie L

    I am 55 years old and have been taken pravachol for a year and a half now. Earlier I was on Zocor, but had extreme leg pain and fatigue. Doctor took me off of Zocor and then put me on Pravachol. Now I am plagued with severe leg pain only, especially in my calves. When sleeping at night it seems to be the worst. Doctor has order a doppler study of my legs for poor circulation. She refuses to believe that it is the Pravachol. When this test comes back and shows that nothing is wrong, I will stop this medication and seek another Doctor. Why aren’t the Doctors listening to us? Everyone can not be making this stuff up.

  11. cookie

    MY husband has all the same symptoms and has been taking statin drugs. He has stopped the drugs but is in so much pain. What can he do to stop the pain? he has not slept for more than 2 hours a night for the past 3 months. Dr gave him co codimal but it is not helping.
    Please help!!!

  12. Margie H

    I am 66 and have been taking statin drugs for at least 10 years and have had to change from one to another every so often because of leg pain and insurance formula. Have been taking lovastatin for two years now and starting having episodes about a year ago with muscle pain in my legs, back and the
    groin. The weird thing about the groin was it would only hurt if I had been sitting for awhile and then get up. It would hurt like a pulled muscle and the pain would radiate to my pelvic region. It was so bad that I could hardly walk. Finally, I quit the lovastatin
    to see if that would help. I’m still having some leg pain, but not one episode with the groin. I have started taking Chloestoff and don’t know
    what my readings are now. Guess I’ll find out
    when I go back to the doctor.

  13. Tricia M

    I am an active 52 year old, weight at 130, height 5’1″. diagnosis of hypothyroidism in 20s and HBP about 4 years ago, history of HBP and heart problems in family. My Total Chol level a few months ago was 299, and good Chol 74..doctor put me on 10mg Crestor…did okay until a few weeks ago, now tired all the time and can sleep around the clock… struggling to do well taking a private hour long tennis lesson… come home and sleep…. muscles in legs hurt, feet wake me up hurting, and I am gaining weight and my weight has been consistent for years. Also, struggling with memory and inconsistent mental functioning.
    Always have sinus congestion now.

  14. Gerry P

    I have used all the statins and had had severe muscle pain: A shoulder that would not bend, a foot that was so painful I could not walk and recently a major knee problem causing me to almost not walk. A GP told me that I should not ever take a statin. I now have a cardiologist who insists on the statins. I have stopped taking simvistatin and my knee pain is almost all gone overnight. Specialists do not gauge pain as a problem. To have constant major pain is a real issue even if your cholesterol levels are in the safe of good range. Life with major pain is not fun.

  15. Peggy C

    I was on Lipitor for years with no side effects. When my insurance changed my doctor switched me to Simvastatin (Zocor) 40 milligrams, I was taking 20 milligrams of Lipitor. My blood work in April was excellent. I then started taking Simvastatin after my blood test. I just had a blood test in September and my doctor called and said my liver enzymes are off the wall. I also have a UTI, which I have had for about a month.
    It seems to me it has to be the Simvastatin since all was well in April and I began taking Simvastin from April – September. I also think that the large increase in milligrams was weird 20 Lipitor to 40 Simvastatin. I now have to go for more blood work to see if my enzymes are coming down. I stopped taking it September 25.

  16. Holly D

    Once his doctor put my husband on Crestor, he had increased memory problems and fatigue. I had read that stains deplete CoQ10 and so added 200mg to his vitamin regimen and it did seem to help. Then I went on 5 mg of crestor and started with severe muscle cramps in calves. I’ve had night cramps before but these were severe. I used to be on Zetia but stopped since the scandal about it came out and my doctor doesn’t even mention it anymore.

  17. S. Pacher

    I had a heart attack in June 2007 at age 70, a problem that is rampant in my family. Even though my cholesterol levels were around 190, I was put on Lipitor, which brought them down to 130 and seemingly had no side effects.
    However, in December 2007, I suddenly began to lose my memory and to become very confused. I thought I was getting early Alzheimer’s. Then just by accident I saw an article on a political site entitled “Are You Losing Your Marbles?”
    It was linked to a medical article that said about 1 in 5000 people have extreme memory problems on statins–sometimes resulting in total amnesia in a short period of time. I immediately quit Lipitor and was better in a matter of 10 days but still have problems focusing on a project for a long period of time.
    Since then, I heard from a friend that her brother-in-law had to be hospitalized with a psychotic episode while on Lipitor that was immediately relieved after stopping the statin. From what I read it seems that the drug companies know about this possible side effect but think that the statins do more good than harm.
    I wonder how many elderly people are suffering from this side effect that is never diagnosed. I’m keeping my cholesterol levels well in check with oatmeal, cheerios and fish oil.

  18. LH

    Statin drugs are soooo dangerous. They are linked to causing serious muscle degeneration. Just think of all of the muscles in the human body that can be adversly affected…EVEN THE HEART. Isn’t that what you are trying to avoid in the first place.
    My husband was on several different statin drugs for a very short times with severe pains from all three medications. The pains started in his foot and then progressed to the legs. Even though he was only on them for a short time and he has been off of them for years now his description is that he feels as though his muscles are rotting. I also know several other friends that have had horrible adverse effects from the statin drugs.
    To be fair, my in-laws both have been on them for years with some problems but they have no desire to exercise or change their eating habits, so they stay on the statins and the multitude of other drugs such as blood pressure meds, etc.
    I have done hours upon hours of research to find the best path to my husband achieve healthy cholesterol without these horrible side effects as well as ways to help regenerate his muscles.
    First of all:
    I put him on CoQ10. Statin drugs deplete the bodies levels of CoQ10 which is naturally depleted as we age to begin with. Multiple medical sources show that a good amount is 40 to 60MG per day is a good dosage. He has shown some improvement with this, but not complete recovery. I have just recently also found several credible sources that suggest high doses of vitamin C.(5000mg per day). Vitamin C is water soluble so overdosage is not a concern like it is with many other vitamins. I will add these to his regiment of healthy foods most days and treating with bad foods several times a week instead of his old eating habit of whatever you feel like, eat.
    From a few years ago with just a regiment of natural suppliments alone without exercise his cholesterol went from 340 to 280. He has recently agreed that he simply needs to adjust his eating habits and impliment regular cardio to maintain health. He is currently 49 years old.
    If lowering your cholesterol is the concern, then please take this advice. Consult your doctor about a healthy Cardio exercise program because that truly is the number one best way to lower your cholesterol naturally. In addition, you simply must not allow yourself to eat all of the fatty foods ALL THE TIME! This does not mean that you cannot enjoy eating them AT ALL or cannot find alternative foods that taste great and also help keep your health.
    I know that my post is quite is long, but I truly hope that it helps those of you that have been harmed by the pharmceutical industries greed.
    I do believe that quite obviously modern medicine can be a benefit and I do advocate it for some occasions. It is a huge benefit for prolonging life today, but we have also learned so much about how to maintain health in the first place with eating better and exercise. Why not try to avoid the avoidable.
    I would be happy to suggest more dietary foods that are delicious and good for you, but I have obviously written enough in this one post.
    Best of luck with your health!

  19. Letty J.

    I’ve been on several statin drugs for very high cholesterol & trigleceride levels. That’s when I told my Dr. about muscle pains on my right arm and severe leg cramps. He doesn’t seem too concerned about the muscle pain. He said that we need to lower my cholesterol and trigleceride levels because they are too high and I’m also diabetic. So here I am suffering w/ these muscle aches and leg cramps and currently I’m on Crestor and Tricor. I’m thinking of not refilling them next time because of these pains. Is there anything natural I can take w/o these horrendous side effects???

  20. Johan

    I have been on Simvastatin (Zocor) for about three years. About nine months ago my lower back started aching when standing or walking. This ache slowly grew more severe during the following months and after several visits with various doctors the problem finally was diagnosed as being degenerative arthritis for which no cure exists.
    Two weeks ago I lowered my Simvastatin dose by 50% and immediately my back felt better. I have now quit statins all together and my back pain is totally gone! According to several reports to be found on the Internet, lower cholesterol does not mean a reduction in the rate of heart attacks. It is possible that the current statin craze will become a major scandal and a disgrace for the medical profession!

  21. JW

    I was put on several cholesterol lowering drugs…. Lipitor, Crestor and even Tricor …. all with undesirable side effects (severe leg cramps at night, and leg weakness during the day). At one point, my CK levels were sky high, and I had to stop taking the medication. Presently, my cholesterol is 292 and am not taking any medication.

  22. Darin

    I am a 35yr old man. I went in for my family’s “mandatory” mid-30’s blood work as triglycerides run high in my family. The doct put me on Crestor 20mg and on triglide (which has been switched to antarta 130mg due to price). Needless to say my 280 bad cholesterol went down to 198 in 6 weeks and is down to 120ish in the 6 months on Crestor, and my 498 triglycerides are down to under 150…
    Problem is that the good chloresterol was 32 at start, fell to 29, and is just now back to 32. Dr. has me on 4000 mg omega-3 and 4000mg flush free niacin to raise… doesn’t seem to be working since we started out at 1000 a day each.
    I didn’t experience any cramping or weakness on this Crestor/Antara/Omega-3/Niacin mix and the results have been great… until about 1 month ago when he added Sincular for some allergies… at least 2 (usually 3 or 4) times a week I am getting calf or foot-arch cramps in the right leg… can’t wait for the left to start. I have blood work in 7 weeks, and a follow-up in 8… if it keeps up, I am going to be talking to the Dr. then, but if it gets worse, I think a change is in the wind sooner.

  23. Stanly Steinberg

    I was on Lipitor for a couple of years. This didn’t control my very high triglycerides so I was put on Lipitor and fenofibrate, which worked, but then I started getting leg pain — like a 2″ circle of tissue was being torn.
    I have quit and gone on a low-starch diet (I have not used sugar in years). I have gone from 220 to 200 and the triglycerides are under control if I don’t drink very much wine. A big worry is I now have severe pain in my left shoulder joint. Feels like several tendons attaching at the joint are inflamed. See a physical therapist for this, but not much progress in a month.

  24. ELA

    I have had trouble with every cholesterol drug I have been perscribed. Provecal I took longer and had severe muscle pain and my liver enzymes went out of comtrol. I got to the point that I could not eat before the alarm in my head went off that it was the statin drug. I tried Crestor after that and after taking 5, I begain to have muscle pain.
    Then I was given Zetia and the same thing happened . My heart doctor told me to stop taking anythig that resembled a statin. Still, my internist insisted on me trying yet another. I didn’t even have it filled; I asked the pharmacist if it was a statin–she said yes, and I told her not to bother to fill it.
    I still to this day have muscle weakness and pain.

  25. Sam

    I am a 51-year-old male. My doctor put me on Lipitor following a heart attack in April, 2004. Although it reduced my LDL from 240 to 110 within a few weeks of taking it, I also started experiencing severe muscle cramps underneath my ribs as well as in the thighs and calves of my legs. My doctor has switched me from Lipitor to Zocor to Zetia, all with the same results. I ended up back on Zocor because my doctor determined that of the three statins he tried me on, the incidence of cramps seemed to be less on Zocor than with the other two.

  26. ahl

    I recently stopped taking Lipitor after investigating my father’s condition, recently diagnosed as CIDP. He took Lipitor for many years, and I suspect that Lipitor may have played a role in the debilitation of one leg and one arm/hand that have become virtually useless. He cannot move either voluntarily. I have been off the Lipitor for about 10 weeks, and my total cholesterol has skyrocketed to 394! I have now, on the advice of my doctor, resumed the Lipitor, albeit reluctantly. I continue to be concerned about the side effects but am more concerned about the high cholesterol. I would very much like input on this issue.

  27. MCM

    I am a 52-yr-old female. I had a mild heart attack last year, and my cardiologist put me on Lipitor. Within 7 months, I noticed lower body/leg pain and muscle weakness, and extreme fatigue and lack of energy. My family doctor took me off Lipitor, but I have only noticed a mild difference in 5 months. I’m hoping for better results as time goes on, and will soon have blood tests to see how my cholesterol is doing. It did lower my total cholesterol from 240 to 136. Very disappointed in the side effects of Lipitor, so I won’t be going back on it.

  28. William Wilson

    I am a 74 year-old male who became aware of my diabetes and cholesterol problems in the 1980s. I have been able to control diabetes with oral medications; however, to lower cholesterol and control lipoprotein levels, I tried a variety of statins over a 13-year interval. Lipitor appeared to provide the most desirable effects.
    However, in 2002, my cholesterol levels remained above the 220 mg/dl level. My cardiologist recommended that I start on Zetia in Spring of 2002; within 6-7 months, my cholesterol levels diminished to around 180 mg/dl and HDL levels improved.
    In December, 2002, I became the victim of a novel ‘leg muscle cramp’ syndrome in which all muscles in my lower leg(s) would contract in a tonic fashion at night while I was asleep; the contraction of all lower leg muscles is extremely painful and each of multiple episodes persists for 2-3 minutes. Over the next year, I received neurologist-recommended treatment (infusion of human IGG in 5 monthly intervals) for a condition which was diagnosed as CIDP disease; that IGG treatment was ineffective. After an additional 1.5 years of treatment with several oral drugs (including quinine sulfate), the frequency of ‘leg muscle cramp’ episodes slowly diminished somewhat (that diminution did not appear to be drug-related).
    In 2005, my cholesterol and diabetes blood symptoms appeared under control. However, the frequency of leg cramps started to increase. At this point, I decided to discontinue taking Zetia; within two weeks the leg cramps diminished to nearly zero. Approximately 6 months later, the ‘leg muscle cramp’ syndrome resumed; I decided to quit taking Lipitor. Again, within 2 weeks, the ‘leg muscle cramp’ syndrome diminished to near zero. Over the next 6 months my cholesterol levels increased back to the 240+ mg/dl level and I continued to have almost no ‘leg muscle cramp’ episodes.
    While it is not possible to unequivocally prove that my ‘leg muscle cramp’ syndrome was caused by the cholesterol-lowering drugs, it is clear that the drugs augmented the frequency of occurrence of the syndrome.

  29. Nick J. Lappa

    I have been on cholesterol drugs for a long time. In the past year or two, I have been unable to keep my arms up to read a newspaper or mag. My legs ache and muscles pulsate. Needless to say I have taken myself of these drugs.

  30. Ray Becker

    I’m a 72-year-old male. Have ended one year of statin-related health problems (Zocor). Coming off Zocor has resulted in high cholesterol and LDL readings. The doctor wants to put me on Zetia. Am I more at risk taking Zetia, given my problems with Zocor?

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