Q. After my doctor prescribed simvastatin I gradually began to lose my libido. I didn’t realize that this medication was responsible, but after I dumped the drug because of severe muscle pain my sex drive came back. Do doctors know about this side effect?
A. We suspect that relatively few physicians are aware of this potential complication. The official prescribing information for simvastatin (Zocor) does not mention lowered libido.
There is a surprising lack of research regarding sexual function and statin-type medications like atorvastatin (Lipitor), rosuvastatin (Crestor) and simvastatin. Because cholesterol is a building block for testosterone, drugs that interfere with cholesterol production can lower levels of this hormone (Journal of Sexual Medicine, April, 2010). French and Dutch researchers have reported that decreased libido and erectile dysfunction may be associated with statin-type drugs (British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, Sept. 2004; Drug Safety, July, 2009).
Niacin, a different kind of cholesterol-lowering drug, does not appear to have this side effect. In fact, a recent study found that niacin might actually improve erectile function (Journal of Sexual Medicine, online Aug. 2, 2011).
You can learn more about cholesterol-lowering drugs and non-drug approaches in our Guide to Cholesterol Control and Heart Health.