close up of a person in a wheelchair

We can think of few diseases that are more dreadful than ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). Losing muscle control to the point of total paralysis takes an incredible toll on the patient and the family. We speak from personal experience. A beloved member of our family died from ALS many years ago, so this is not an academic exercise for us.

Could Statin Drugs Lead to ALS-Like Symptoms?

Several years ago we started hearing rumors about an association between cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins and ALS. At first we rejected this as gossip, rumor and innuendo. We talked with Duane Graveline, MD, about cases he was collecting (see below) and we talked with Beatrice Golomb, MD, about her own research in this matter. We also interviewed Ralph Edwards, MD, Director of the World Health Organization’s drug-monitoring center in Uppsala, Sweden about a link between statins and ALS-like syndrome. Our radio show with the interview with Dr. Edwards aired August 4, 2007.

Many cardiologists and other physicians were not convinced about this idea. Nevertheless, many patients have reported a connection between taking a statin-type medicine and the development of ALS-like symptoms (see comments below). There is also a publication from Beatrice Golomb, MD, and her colleagues (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis-Like Conditions in Possible Association with Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs: An Analysis of Patient Reports to the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) Statin Effects Study, Drug Safety, Aug. 8, 2009)

Are Some People Especially Susceptible?

We suspect that there may be individuals who are highly susceptible to muscle pain and weakness brought on by statins. This could be as many as 10 percent of those who take such drugs. There may be a much smaller group that is susceptible to an even more serious reaction called ALS-like syndrome. One piece of evidence that might corroborate a connection is a report that patients with ALS deteriorate more quickly if they take a statin-type medication (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, Aug., 2008).

The FDA has dismissed our concerns and concluded that there is no connection. We certainly hope the FDA is right. If the agency is wrong, however, a terrible tragedy could be unfolding because people in authority have ignored the early warning signals of danger.

Prior Posting July 30, 2007

Duane Graveline, MD, has reported many cases of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) associated with statin-type cholesterol-lowering drugs. Dr. Graveline has had personal experience with Lipitor and TGA (transient global amnesia) and has written about it in his books, “Statin Drugs Side Effects” and “Lipitor, Thief of Memory.” The information is at Within a year of his TGA attacks he noted the gradual onset of pains and weakness in his back and legs subsequently diagnosed as ALS-like. Dr. Graveline now must use a walker full time. To learn more of Dr.Graveline’s Lipitor-associated ALS-like experience see My Statin Story on his website. Recently Dr. Graveline informed us he has received several hundred statin-associated ALS reports.

Although we were aware of muscle problems as well as nerve issues (peripheral neuropathy) associated with statin-type drugs, we had not heard of ALS cases linked to these medications. Then we received an email from a reader of our syndicated newspaper column:

“I read with interest today’s letter from a Lipitor taker. I believe Lipitor triggered my ALS, but had a hard time convincing anyone until this World Health Organization report came out:”

“Statins, neuromuscular degenerative disease and an amyotrophic lateral sclerosis-like syndrome: an analysis of individual case safety reports from vigibase.” Edwards IR, Star K, Kiuru A.  Drug Safety 2007;30(6):515-525.

The Wall Street Journal has also written about this research. You can find an article by Avery Johnson on the first page of the July 3, 2007 edition:

If you have an experience you would like to report about statins in general or an ALS-like syndrome in particular, please write about it here or make a report directly to MedWatch. We will pass on your case report to the FDA. We always appreciate you voting for this post at the top of the page.

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  1. Cathie P
    Springfield, MO

    About 6 years ago, my doctor put me on Lipitor. I took it for about two weeks, and one morning I could not get out of bed. My husband helped me walk to the bathroom. I was completely bent over; back ached something awful, and my thighs hurt so very bad. I was frantic, crying. He told me it’s got to be the Lipitor. I quit it, and it took a couple of days before I was walking right again. I told my doctor about it, and he had me try Lovistatin. In a few days, I had the thigh pain again, and so I quit Lovistatin, and will never take a Statin drug again. And, to this day, I have some memory problems; hard to think of the right word, and at times, ask my husband what we had for breakfast, or what did we do yesterday. And, I struggle with spelling words I used to know how to spell. Thank God for spell check on my computer. -Cathie P, Springfield, MO

  2. Cheryl

    Shortly after starting Lipitor several years ago I was experiencing pretty severe muscle cramps and developed an ascending numbness and tingling from my feet to my waist, which lasted for almost a week. I also had ptosis of both eyelids which was recurring and remitting. I took myself off of statins and have not taken them since, despite insistence from my endocrinologist that I try them again. There is an established connection between myasthenia symptoms and statins. My brother, who took statins for over a year, now suffers from myasthenia gravis and almost died from a drug reaction associated with his condition. I don’t consider the small benefit to be worth the risk.

  3. Sheri
    La Habra, CA

    Amazed at all the comments on this subject! I was on Lipitor and my cholesterol kept going up and my dr doubled the dose. I am type 2 diabetic and had read studies that statins increase risk for diabetes. Why would I subject myself to that? I am already struggling with that! I stopped taking Lipitor in Jan this year. I started seeing an acunpunturist/holistic medicine dr in May who is helping me with several issues. Long story short my cholesterol has gone down 20 points since seeing her. My new MD is pushing for a statin again. I am refusing!! There are healthier ways to care for your body! Get out there and find them!!! Good Luck!

  4. Jane

    My husband, a vibrant, health concious man of 56. He eats fruit, vegetables, some meat and little junk food, if any. (ice cream is his weakness) He works out, lifts weights and hikes. He was put on Lipitor about 25 years ago. Did blood work to check on things and has a yearly physical. In the past six months he has started having muscle twitching in his neck and arm. Leg cramps and back pain. His throat closes at times when he tries to swallow liquid, he chokes. He voice and speech and slurred. He feels healthy in every other way. They say it looks like ALS. I am looking closely at this issue.

  5. Charles

    I am diabetic and I gladly take statins. They do have some side effects, as mentioned, at first. But they go away as you get used to the statins. I am much more worried about a stroke now, than something else, maybe in the future.

  6. Martha P.
    Bartow, FL

    I have very high cholesterol (over 350) which is greatly lowered taking statins. I have been off and on prescribed them for years. After taking them for a while I get a feeling of exhaustion and weakness. I have been on Zetia and pravastatin for 4 months and because I am feeling so bad stopped the Zetia at least. I will be getting another blood test in a few months. Meanwhile I am trying to recover my stamina.

  7. Peggy
    Port Angeles, WA

    My husband had high dose of Lipitor years ago. He started having severe muscle pain daily and would go to the doctor where they would do ultra sounds and other costly procedures trying to find out what was really wrong with him. I kept telling him I think it’s from your statin as I read where it causes muscle pain. Now wouldn’t you think that’s the first thing a doctor would think of and lower the statin! After my complaining for months he finally listened and the doctor changed him to another statin in lower dose; he has been muscle pain free ever since. My complaint with doctors is they have everyone on such high doses of this stuff (and all other drugs) instead of starting out with the lowest and increase slowly if necessary. I just take 10mg Lovastatin and have no problem, but I would quit on my own if the doctor didn’t listen, as we know our own bodies. Just cause the doctor prescribes something for you doesn’t mean you have to take it – just ask questions until they get it right and you feel right!

  8. Pat
    Dallas, TX

    Doctors have urged me for years to take something to lower my cholesterol. I have a family history of stroke and diabetes. I can’t get past a friend who took Zocor. She complained of pain in her shoulders and was thinking of seeing a lawyer about suing Zocor’s maker because it was so severe. Before she could do that she started showing signs of dementia. The doctors said they had never seen a case progress so fast. She’s been in a nursing home in a catatonic state for the last three years. It breaks my heart.

  9. Carrie

    I wish I could take turmeric, but unfortunately I get a bad reaction to it, even in very small amounts. (lightheadedness, fatigue, heartburn). Be sure to start out slowly. I hope it works for you. It didn’t for me.

  10. Karin
    Tecopa, CA

    I was already very aware of ALS in the late 1990s, as my dad had previously been diagnosed with ALS and suicided rather than burden his family with the inevitable and horrible death. Shortly after his death I read a memorandum from the World Health Organization warning the medical profession that symptoms of statin-induced rhabdomyalisis were possibly being mistaken for ALS symptoms. Since ALS was, at that time, only diagnosable by the elimination of all other factors that might cause such symptoms and because statins were, at the time, relatively new, the WHO apparently wanted to make sure that such statin-induced symptoms be ruled out before such a deadly diagnosis be made.

    That memo disappeared into the digital ethers, never mentioned again, as far as I could find it….. Seems a bit specious that this news is now reappearing as if only just discovered.

    • The People's Pharmacy

      As you’ll see from the date on our article, it goes back quite a way. We thought readers who had not seen it before might be interested.

  11. Carol

    My husband is 75 and took statins for years. I kept telling him about the side effect of memory loss I heard about on NPR and The People’s Pharmacy. When you are 75, everyone has memory lapses here and there and more serious problems are easy to overlook but when he said he could not remember anything about the trip we took to China in 2010 or the trip to Cuba in 2012, he stopped taking Crestor. He is now taking Namenda but his memory is not better and may be worse. He also gets confused and has trouble with what day it is and I have to check to make sure he takes his other medications. We no longer travel because he has a lot of anxiety about going anywhere. My doctor recently suggested I start a statin for high cholesterol and I said, “No way.”

  12. Pat

    About 15 years ago my friend Sheila was diagnosed with MS. After hearing about the side effects of muscle pain and weakness from statins, I asked her when the MS symptoms first appeared and when she started the statin drug. Both started at the same time! She refused to do anything about it because her doctor said there was no connection and her cholesterol was high. Ten years ago after much degeneration of muscles, Sheila fell into her shower and was unable to move and unable to breathe. She died of suffocation.

  13. courtney sexton

    My mom passed away two weeks ago after a two year struggle with ALS at the age of 68. As I was digging through her stuff over the weekend I was really surprised to see how many (8) meds she was on prior to being diagnosed. Zocor (simvastatin) was one of them. I found this info in her records from when she had her hip replaced. After her hip replacement, was when the first symptoms appeared, sore muscles and slurred speech, then continuing with something new and worse about every week until she was locked-in & bed ridden. My question is… are there any current studies that research the links between Statin drugs and ALS that I could give my mom’s info to? Unfortunately, she never filled out the correct paperwork to have her body donated to the cause, even though I know she wanted to. She made donations to ALS orgs, and very much would want to do anything possible to help end this horrible disease.

  14. terryl

    I took statins for years before I had any noticeable problems. I had my blood tested every six months to be sure they weren’t destroying my liver or my muscles, and the tests did not show any damage. One day I went to comb my hair and my arm muscles burned as if I was in the middle of an exercise routine. I realized, over the next few weeks, that all my muscles felt that way so I made an appointment with my doctor. When I told her what my muscles felt like and that I thought it was the statin I was taking, which I would not take any more, she agreed. Seven years later, my muscles still burn like this a lot of the time. It’s ridiculous. These studies keep coming out about how statins help this and that, and maybe everyone should be on them. I don’t think they should be made illegal, but I think doctors should be very careful that when they prescribe a statin, to tell patients the possible side effects, the most likely side effects and to contact the doctor immediately if any of these appear. I will probably suffer this muscle pain for the rest of my life. The little difference the statins may have made in my chances of having a heart attack was absolutely not worth it.

  15. Dick S
    Chas. WV

    My wife has symptoms like ALS – bulbar. Swallowing and speech are affected. She takes Lipotor.

  16. helen
    United States

    My husband was on cholesterol medication for 7 years. He didn’t seem to have any problems till about a year ago. I noticed something wasn’t right with his memory. It got so bad I decided to retire. We both were scared to death he had dementia. It continued to get worse at a rapid rate. One day God put in my mind to check out his medications. There it was right before my eyes. He had so many of the side effects. Neurologist diagnosed him with neuropathy. He’s been off the drug for one week & it’s amazing how he is regaining his memory. Praise & glory to God!

  17. KS

    There is a wealth of information out there on the side affects that statins
    are responsible for, not to mention numerous peoples experience the correlation of statins to AlS, what more proof does the FDA need to take these off the market?
    They are even prescribed to people who have reasonable cholesterol levels.
    Not to mention the Dr’s seldom tell you that statins also are responsible for removing CO Q 10 from your heart something your heart has to have.
    I was asked to take a statin myself and I told my Dr. you will never get me to take any statin especially knowing the side affects and others experience.
    The best solution is a simple effective and natural supplement called “Curcumin” which is really the spice tumeric. I have a friend who after taking this 3 months their cholesterol went from 223 to 123 amazing! His Dr questioned him thinking he was taking the statin she prescribed and was amazed when he said he wasn’t taking it!

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