Q. My father was prescribed simvastatin (Zocor) and fenofibrate (Tricor) for high cholesterol. Within months his speech started to slur and he began to have trouble swallowing.
His doctor sent him to a neurologist to be tested for ALS. The test was inconclusive but the symptoms worsened. We asked the doctors if statin drugs could have triggered this, and they both dismissed the idea.
Eventually my dad could not talk, eat or swallow liquids. He died at the age of 68, though he had been healthy until he started treating his cholesterol.

A. The connection between statin cholesterol-lowering drugs and ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) is controversial. Since a link was first proposed in 2007, some studies have confirmed it while others have found no association. Some clinicians treating ALS patients have found that statins accelerate the decline (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, August 2008), while others deny it (Journal of the Neurological Sciences, Oct. 15, 2008).
Hundreds of people have related their experiences on our website (www.peoplespharmacy.com) and many are convinced that statins triggered ALS. One reader commented: “My brother was just diagnosed with ALS. He has been taking statins for about a year and a half. He’s developed weakness in his legs and hands and chokes when swallowing.”

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  1. l
    Reply

    After reading your story I cried for your loss.
    I’m so sorry for your loss and know you loved your mom dearly and she trusted her children enough to get you involved.
    I am grateful to your mother for being persistent and documenting her journey so that others can be helped. You mother was not selfish. Your mother was selfless, which obviously rubbed of on you.
    You took the time to post this long story, selflessly. In you grief you care for strangers.
    Thank you! I pray the most high god will bless you and comfort you!!
    Bless you, Bless you, Bless you and all! the people who are sharing their stories, In the name of Jesus Christ!

  2. Owen W.
    Reply

    I have been on Zocor, now simvastatin for 17 yrs. dosage: 10mg. beginning in Jan., 2012, I noticed speech probs., slurring. I knew the symptoms as “bulbar” ALS since my wife passed
    away in 2008 from ALS as I was her caregiver. She was not on any cholesterol drugs.
    I voiced my concern about the statin connection with both my primary care Dr. & also
    my neurologist… both dismissed the connection! Since this disease is not prevalent in my family, I believe there is a connection. What are the odds of both husband & wife having this disease?? Too late for me as I am 81 yrs. old and know the final outcome.

  3. Tara
    Reply

    I have had the same experience.
    My Mother was diagnosed 2 weeks ago with ALS. This incredibly strong and healthy woman only began experiencing symptoms when she was put on statin drugs.
    Like the previous comment, symptoms began in her hands and legs.
    More research must be done regarding this link.

  4. GFF
    Reply

    If you do not have conclusive evidence related to statins and Als then don’t publish it. Why scare people if you have nothing, but people guessing what caused their loved one to get Als. Als is possibly genetic. How do you like that.

  5. A.D.
    Reply

    I was diagnosed with ALS last June. I have never had a cholesterol problem or taken drugs for it. I don’t have diabetes. I never smoked. I’m athletic and in good shape. I have low blood pressure. I was shocked by my diagnosis. I have asthma and take asthma medication, but my symptoms are not in my respiratory system. They started in my left arm, moved on to my right arm, and now effect my left leg. I have no idea why I have this disease.k

  6. maggie
    Reply

    I was put on baycol in 2001. One day I noticed weakness going upstairs and knew it was not normal for me because I was very active. Without telling my doctor I stopped taking the drug and I went back to normal. After that other doctors have put on statins same thing muscle and weakness problems. Now I will not take statins. Years baycal was recalled as I am sure some of you readers are aware of the deaths.
    A friend of mine was on lipitor and had trouble with her legs weakness. doctors couldn’t find why. She ended in a wheelchair then bed ridden. I used to tell her about my experience and for her to stop taking it for a while, but she never did.
    Blood pressure also cause muscle problems. So do others. I always have to find out on my own or by reading side effect info that comes with the medication.
    I hope this info helps someone.

  7. GRD
    Reply

    To S. Hawley
    I am so sorry about you Mom. What scares me so is that your Mom is not now on statins but was in the past. In Dr. Graveline’s book I think he does mention that just because a person quits taking statins that the damage has been done. Statin poisoning may come back to bite you. I quit taking Simvastatin about three months ago and still have back pain. Now I have to worry that it may get worse or I get ALS. That’s the scary part.
    My best to you and your Mom.

  8. S Hawley
    Reply

    I can’t believe what I’ve been reading. So many stories exactly like my mothers. She was diagnosed with ALS in April. I asked her after seeing this report if she ever took a statin and she wrote (her voice is no longer there) that yes she took Lipitor a couple years back. I’ll have to look through her medical records to see when she exactly did this. My father has been on lipitor for years, he’s fine, but I’m going to let the ALS clinic know that she did indeed take Lipitor.

  9. PP
    Reply

    No one has mentioned using CQ-10 with Statins. My NP prescribed them ALONG with the statin. Sometimes you have to adjust the dosage of the CQ-10 to fit your Statin dose, but this definitely helps with the muscle weakness.

  10. Clayt
    Reply

    I have been on a minimal dose of simvastain drugs for about sixteen years: That and blood pressure pills and a baby aspirin has been my daily medication. My cholesterol has bounced up and down over those years 197 to 214. Weakness in my legs has been the one major side affect that has been with me and getting worse. Within the last year I noticed more fatigue, problem swallowing and recently light-headedness. Because my LDL (bad chol) has gone up to 129 my VA doctor has doubled the potency of my prescription.
    This is where I get off the medication. I don’t like the way I feel and I am going to seek an alternative way of controlling the numbers. It’s my choice! There is a side affect of every medication which too many doctors consider do not out weigh the benefits.
    I am fortunate not to have gone the ALS route so far, but I don’t want to push my luck. The weak legs (doing stairs) and light headedness are enough trigger points.

  11. mike s.
    Reply

    My wife had her cholestrol checked in 2007 and it was over 300
    She was put onto a simvastatin. In late 2008 she started noticing trouble
    Moving her right hand. They determined carpal tunnel. Surgery was
    Done in late 2008.
    After rehab things were not improving. Three months
    Later her right hand was troublesome. After many tests in april
    2009 she was told ALS. After going to ALS clinc and consult with
    Doctor they told me to stop her cholestrol medicine after I challenged
    them about cholestrol medicine and ALS.
    Why do you think the medical
    community said stop simvastatins???
    My wife died May 30, 2011 of ALS!
    Why can’t they do more research to prove this out. The answer is
    It is a rare disease and there is not a good return on the research
    Investment like erectile disfunction or nail fungus.

  12. Melvena H.
    Reply

    Hello…I would like to share a letter my mother wrote to her doctor regarding this very subject…..Statin Connection with ALS. I hope that this information will be beneficial to others:
    “I am a new patient at your neurology clinic and writing you this letter prior to my appointment, because it is important to me that I personally provide you with some information about my medical history. I pray that this information will help you better understand the possible cause of my symptoms. In 2001, I began statin therapy and was placed on the prescription medication Crestor by my internal medicine doctor.
    Approximately two years later in 2003, I started experiencing muscle aches and weakness, memory loss and confusion, and problems with my sleep. I informed my doctor of my symptoms, but was told that it was normal for someone my age (59 yrs old) to experience these symptoms. Spring of that same year (2003), I was diagnosed with breast cancer and went through a number of chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Throughout the next three years my cognitive problems, sleep problem, and muscle aches and weakness continued to get worse. I again brought it to the attention of my doctor, but was told at the time my memory loss could have been caused by the chemotherapy (chemo brain).
    My problems with sleep, muscle aches and weakness were not addressed. March 2006, I noticed that my cognitive problems became so severe I that could not even remember the names of close friends, driving directions to familiar places, and telephone numbers that I dialed on a regular basis. My problems with sleep, muscle aches and weakness also continued to get worse.
    I was hospitalized approximately twice between March and August of 2006, because of severe muscle aches in my chest, arms and hands. I truly thought each time that I was hospitalized I was having a heart attack. During each of the hospitalizations I was informed by the attending physicians that my heart was fine and that they could not provide me with an explanation of my symptoms.
    Approximately one month (September 2006) later my family and I noticed my speech became slurred and I was also having difficulty swallowing. My new family doctor referred me to a neurologist for further testing. December 13th 2006, I was hospitalized a third time due to experiencing severe fatigue, muscle weakness, joint and muscle pain, and problems with my speech and swallowing. Two days later I was released from the hospital with no explanation of what was causing my symptoms.
    My symptoms continued to get progressively worse each day. Along with the other symptoms that I began experiencing facial weakness (dropping), problems with standing for brief periods (3 to 4 minutes), walking short distances and difficultly walking up and down just a few stairs without assistance. My daughters took an inventory of my medications and began researching their side effects. December 28th 2006, my daughter found some very disturbing information regarding severe adverse side effect caused by cholesterol-lowering medications, which she immediately brought to my attention.
    December 29th 2006, I stopped taking my prescribed statin medication, Crestor and scheduled an appointment with my primary doctor. My primary doctor reviewed the research information provided to her by my daughter regarding the adverse side effects of statin medications and she agreed that that I should stop all statin medications and referred me for further testing. My symptoms have not improved since discontinuing the statin medications and I honestly believe that the damage has been done and cannot be reversed. I continue to experience slurred speech, severe headaches (daily, especially when I first wake up in the mornings) and lightheadedness, difficulty using my arms and hands, swallowing difficulty, cognitive problems, fatigue, problems sleeping, walking and have fallen several times.”
    My mother wrote this letter in March 2007 and was officially diagnosed with ALS in January 2008. Her condition continued to get progressively worse and she suffered rapid decline in her health until her death August 9, 2010. I truly believe that my mother’s ALS was statin induced. It is too late for my mother but I hope and pray that sharing my mother’s story will help others that are currently taking statin medications and suspect that their statin medications are causing them to suffer severe side effects but their doctors are dismissing the idea.
    In loving memory of my best friend and mother Veronica A. Maddox 4/27/44 – 8/9/10.

  13. crandreww
    Reply

    May I suggest to you all, to read the book “Over the Counter Natural Cures” By Shane Ellison, MS, a former Medicinal Chemist who became so angry with the powers that be at the 2 Pharma companies he worked for, changing his research to say what they wanted it to say and not report the actual data… you can get the book at amazon.com for about $10 bucks and I think I saw Walmart carries it as well. Like Mr. Ellison, I want to help people to not be duped by junk science. Do yourself a favor and get this book.

  14. Ann P.
    Reply

    When it was first discovered that my cholesterol was 270, my physician put me on Lipitor… Was having major memory lapses. Then was referred to a book written by a physician on the space program who had been on Lipitor as well. The title of the book is “lipitor:the thief of memory”. Don’t remember the MD’s name… Took me off Lipitor and my memory improved considerably.

  15. GF
    Reply

    I have been taking statins for 20 years. (Lipitor, Mevacor, Zocor, Zetia, Pravastatin) Lipitor caused extreme cramps in my feet and legs. Stopped it after 2 months. Others caused less cramps, but eventually my legs began to get very weak. Zetia and Zocor lowered my cholesterol and LDL significantly, but questionable value of Zetia made my cardiologist and doctor have me drop the Zetia.
    Then I started taking Pravastatin and eventually I put myself back on Zetia. Getting along fine. Recently, my doctor recommended that I stop both Zetia and Pravastatin and start taking 10mg of Rosuvastatin (Crestor). I’m thinking about dropping all of it and trying avocados 1 or 2 every week.
    The only thing I can say is that I am still here and very active golfing, swimming, yard work, etc. So, the Doctors haven’t been so bad, but I am getting confused mentally about the value of statins. Other than the fact that I haven’t died yet, don’t have major muscle damage, but do have neurophyia in my feet. P.S. Had third pacemaker installed May of 2011.

  16. jim
    Reply

    Hi
    I have a rare form of muscular dystrophy which is primary muscle disease.
    ( it is autosomal dominate ) The term for the disease is OPMD. This disease if found in high concentration in New Mexico and Quebec Canada.
    One thing to keep in mind is my CK has always been very high.( even before being on a statin) When they did the “M BANDS” they were low. I was put on Lipitor for primary prevention (family history heart disease ), but noticed a lot of stiffness in my legs, thinking this was all in my head I stopped Lipitor for 2 weeks then resumed taking the Lipitor the stiffness returned. I was switched to Pravachol
    (which many would consider a lower potency, and it is also metabolized by another pathway, vs the metabolic pathway of Lipitor).
    My question is should anyone with primary muscle disease take a statin?
    When I have asked physicians at the Muscular Dystrophy clinic this question the answer I get “No one knows”.

  17. Helen M
    Reply

    Tears came to my eyes as I read this; 21 years ago my husband died with ALS, just one year after diagnosis. He had been and was taking mevacor. I myself stopped the lipitor about 9 months ago. The first thing that I noticed was my need for insulin dropped by a third; since then I have read of research connecting statins to diabetes. I had been taking them for 13 years, during which my diabetes control required more and more insulin. And my weight soared. I have since lost over 25 pounds, hard to be sure, but not impossible as before.
    Now that lipitor is going generic, perhaps the glut of advertisements and prescriptions will stop. My new doctor and I have never mentioned cholesterol, my lead. Yet I have suggested many blood tests and he has added to those. Maybe a doctor who has not been blindsided by the pharmaceutical industry?

  18. STEVE
    Reply

    I have used lovastatin for years. I tend to think that my body pains less clarity of mind are increasing but normal due to advancing age. But I also think that there might be a connection to my medicine [ primarily lovastatin ]. My question is if the statin might be the cause, would discontinuing it after all these many years be helpful or to late?
    Remembering current articles about statins published here on your site and newspapers, tv, and other media it seems that statins may not be helpful as once thought and it might be helpful to stop using it and see what happens. I would appreciate your thoughts.

  19. dp
    Reply

    Too many people are dying an unnecessary, very painful death from ALS which is now a COMMON illness! Tell me why I never, ever cared for a patient with ALS in the 47 years I worked in Hospitals and nursing homes!? Nor have any of my classmates, (I took a poll at a reunion.) We have all cared for many rare illness, Huntingten’s Choria, Sarcoidois, Scleraderma, Supernuclear Gays Palsy, but NEVER ALS!
    Personally, I’ve lost two close friends to ALS. At least one Univ. Hospital told one of the wives her husband’s death was from the statin drug. So the medical field is aware of it and keeping mum…. Honestly, it makes me ashamed I was part of this medical field my whole working life! DP

  20. crandreww
    Reply

    I am so sorry to hear this devastating effect that statins took on your father and your family. My fathers childhood friend of 50+ years was in good health when his doctor started him on lipitor for his “high cholesterol,” within 18 months, he was diagnosed with ALS, and suffered from a rapid decline in his health, and died shortly after.
    It is very sad that many doctors think they know it all, and wont even entertain the “notion” that the golden drug could be doing more harm than good. May your father rest in peace, there are many articles out there correlating ALS as related to Statin use!! Most haven’t identified a causal relationship, but ALS was once a very rare disease, which is on the incline since Statins have been introduced.
    http://www.medscape.org/viewarticle/581181

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