When the very first statin-type cholesterol-lowering drug was approved by the FDA in July, 1987 there was great excitement. Lovastatin (Mevacor) was perceived as a magic bullet for lowering cholesterol and reducing the risk of heart attacks. Within a short time Mevacor became the most prescribed anticholesterol drug in the country. Doctors perceived it as highly effective and well tolerated with few serious side effects.
Despite initial enthusiasm there were a few concerns. Doctors were told by the manufacturer that Mevacor might raise liver enzymes and increase the risk for cataracts. The official prescribing information noted that dogs treated with Mevacor developed cataracts and “There was a high prevalence of baseline lenticular opacities in the patient population included in the early clinical trials with lovastatin.” In other words, there was acknowledgment that clouding of the lens suggestive of cataracts occurred during the early human tests of statins.
As a result of these discoveries, liver function tests were supposed to be performed before treatment started and then every month of two thereafter for at least a year. Eye exams were recommended early in treatment and annually thereafter.
The incredible success of Mevacor led to the development of many other statin-type drugs including:
• Atorvastatin (Lipitor)
• Fluvastatin (Lescol)
• Lovastatin extended-release (Altoprev)
• Lovastatin + Niacin (Advicor)
• Pitavastatin (Livalo)
• Pravastatin (Pravachol)
• Rosuvastatin (Crestor)
• Simvastatin (Zocor)
• Simvastatin + Niacin (Simcor)
• Simvastatin + Ezetimibe (Vytorin)

Over the course of 25 years statins have become the most successful drugs in the history of the pharmaceutical industry. Tens of millions of Americans were put on drugs like Lipitor, Zocor and Crestor. Physicians became convinced that these medications were essential for good health and carried very little risk. There were few reports of liver problems, so regular testing dropped by the wayside, as did the fear that the drugs could cause cataracts. We suspect that relatively few patients were warned that they needed to get eye exams regularly and be on guard against cataracts.
We first got wind of the emerging cataract problem in an epidemiological study published in the journal BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal) on May 20, 2010. Over 225,000 new statin users from England and Wales were tracked for several years. The investigators noted an increased risk for muscle pain, moderate to serious liver problems and cataracts:

“The time varying analyses showed the risk [of cataracts] was significantly increased within a year of starting statins, persisted during treatment, and returned to normal within the first year after stopping treatment.”

Although we thought this was a pretty dramatic discovery, it didn’t get much media or medical attention. But now a new study has confirmed that cataracts are associated with statin use (Optometry and Vision Science, Aug. 2012). Canadian researchers studied over 6,000 patients who visited an optometry clinic. Diabetic patients who took statins were at significantly greater risk for developing cataracts than those who did not take statins. The investigators point out that the lens of the eye requires cholesterol for proper cell development and lens transparency.
Patients with diabetes are frequently prescribed statins to prevent cardiovascular complications of their disease such as heart attacks and strokes. But here is another boomerang: statins themselves may substantially increase the risk for diabetes.
A new study in The Lancet (Aug. 11, 2012) confirms what many people were already beginning to suspect. Those with prediabetes are at especially high risk for developing full-blown diabetes if they are prescribed statins. The investigators were quick to point out that the cardiovascular benefits of statins outweigh the hazards of diabetes. That may be, but when a drug causes a condition (like diabetes) that can have such devastating health consequences, we have to ask whether the ends justify the means.
Visitors to this website have been reporting problems with statins since long before the researchers turned up proof. Here are just a few comments.

“Within about a month of starting Crestor at 5 mg, I had calf pain on a consistent basis. And in the same time frame, I was diagnosed as diabetic — not a great surprise because I was a likely candidate with a history of gestational diabetes and hypoglycemia — but I had not tipped into the actual diabetes category until after I took a statin.
“The calf pain disappeared shortly after I stopped the statin, but the diabetes remained.”

“I started out with Questran in the 1980s, moving on first to Mevacor and then to Lipitor in the 1990s. I was diagnosed with Type II diabetes in 1989 when a urine specimen showed high sugars and a 24 hr urine analysis revealed kidney disease. Now after some 20 years of statins and well controlled diabetes (A1C 6.1 this January) I have peripheral neuropathy in both feet. I’m also aware of fuzzy cognitive thinking and loss of vocabulary.
“I’m having surgery on a lumpy tendon sheath in my left thumb next week. It never occurred to me that statins had anything to do with any of these things, but now I’m wondering. In 2007 I had a cardiac syndrome episode with no damage, but a narrowed LAD coronary artery. Both my GP and my cardiologist are big Lipitor fans. I’m 80 years old and realize that decline is inevitable, but not decline caused by a medication!”

“I have been prescribed Flonase but never have used it much, which is good, given this possible problem with cataracts. However, I have been using Lipitor for about 10 years now. About 2 years ago I was told that I have a cataract starting in my left eye; however, I am 64 and I imagine that cataracts starting at my age are not uncommon.”

And that pretty much sums up the statin dilemma. People who are diagnosed with cataracts or diabetes in their fifties or sixties are frequently told that they “are just getting older.” With age comes chronic health problems like muscle aches and pain, diabetes and cataracts. What people may not be told is that atorvastatin or simvastatin (or any other statin) might be contributing to those aches and pains, elevated blood sugars or cataracts.
We recognize that many people benefit from statins, especially those who have had a heart attack or a stent placed in a coronary artery. But the benefits of statins for what is called primary prevention are now highly controversial. When a medicine that is supposed to prevent chronic health problems down the road actually contributes to them, we get concerned.
We welcome your comments below. Share your story about statins. We want to hear the pros as well as the cons. Should you wish to learn more about natural ways to control cholesterol and lower heart attack risks, we have a comprehensive chapter on this topic in our book, Best Choices From The People’s Pharmacy.

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  1. Beryl R
    Suffolk uk

    I’ve been on statins for 15 years and 15 years of hell. I’m suffering lower back pain feet pain dry eyes blepharitis cataract diabetes hair loss dry scalp and hair dry skin disturbed sleep UTI. So where are the benefits of these drugs? Only to the multi billion pound drug Co s. I also have leukemia now.

  2. Scott W.
    Loganville, Georgia

    I was recently diagnosed with a large blood clot in the 3rd chamber of my heart. I had several strokes as a result and was shocked as I exercised daily was a regular swimmer with no history of blood pressure or cholesterol problems. I was prescribed two blood pressure, cholesterol limiting, and a blood thinner. The clot was gone quickly, but the drugs with side effects remain. These doctors run amok with drugs and I think they cause more harm than good. No wonder they are being sued and deservedly so. They are not professionals and lack basic judgement.

  3. jamil a.
    bronx ny

    I had a cholesterol problem, so my doctor had me start simvastatin 40mg for 6 month then again same. When I stop taking the medicine I started having some vision problems. I went to my primary doc, and he send me to an eye doctor. They detect my both eyes cataracts. Now 19 jan 2015 my first right eye will be operated on, then next one will have the operation 4 weeks later. It is a big problem with this medicine. I am very worried about this situation.

  4. Nancy

    I took Simvastatin for 7 months and had many side effects where I went to the doctor and they did not suggest I stop them. Granted, the doctor prescribed it when I was already taking a medication that states they should never be mixed. After a pharmacist told me I should not combine them I quit the other and continued the statin. I then had severe shoulder and hip pain, had gained 28 pounds in less then 3 months, pins and needles in my feet and hands and my fingers were locking. When I developed the trigger thumb I researched myself online and it brought me straight to a Zocor warning. How did the doctors miss my symptoms as side effects to the statin and also miss the drug interaction for months?? I thought I would get better after stopping Simvastatin but have now been diagnosed with carpal tunnel, plantar fasciatis, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. I can no longer drive to work due to the pain. I am screwed because of this drug and no doctor will say it was from the statin. I was fine before taking it. How can they get away with this? If doctors reported this then maybe it would save some people from what I am going through. They think the drug is safe but that is because of all the denial. I am mad as HE** this did not need to happen to me.

  5. G Hutch

    My eyesight has deteriorated, seeing double since going onto atorvastatin.
    Lots of flu-like symptoms, sore muscles and joints, so much so l wake frequently and have to walk and exercise the muscles and joints to get relief or l cant sleep. I also often feel very nauseas.
    I was put on them over a year ago and have never had any tests to see if they are causing any harm despite telling my doctor.

  6. G Hutch

    My eyesight has deteriated, seeing double since going onto atorvastatin.
    Lots of flu like symptoms, sore muscles and joints, so much so l wake frequently and have to walk and exercise the muscles and joints to get relief or I can’t sleep.
    I also often feel very nauseous.
    I was put on them over a year ago and have never had any tests to see if they are causing any harm despite telling my doctor.

  7. Simone P.

    So, in April 2012 I had a stent put in my Right Coronary Artery and was put on Lipitor. High Cholesterol runs in my family even though I have a very healthy diet. Initially I was put on Lipitor, then Zocor, then Crestor… I was able to tolerate Crestor because the other meds gave me severe leg cramps.
    After 6 months on Crestor I started having the same problems I had with the other statins but my cardiologist insisted I be on this statin because I had a minor cardiac event in April 2012. After a 2 years on Crestor I started having bilateral foot tingling, numbness and temperature changes in both feet from hot to cold and cold to hot and tingling on the Right side of my back. I immediately stopped taking Crestor. I was referred to a neurologist and they ran every lab under the sun and even did an MRI and everything came back normal so I am convinced the problem stemmed from statin use.
    I will never take another statin the rest of my life and have been referred for Acupuncture. Had I known these side effects, I would have never taken Crestor. You can’t live in fear about possible health issues; it is also about the quality of life and it is often difficult to make wise health decisions if you are not given accurate information about possible side effects.

  8. RS

    I have taken statins of various types for over 25 years. All produced muscle pain and stupidity! About 6 months ago I stopped. I have many years experience in emergency medicine and did my own research into this class of drugs. First, the reduction in cardiac events with statins when compared to aspirin are almost identical. While aspirin is known to produce bleeding disorders these complications are NOT common. Second, the majority of people that suffer a fatal cardiac arrest have NORMAL or BELOW NORMAL cholesterol levels.
    There have been no studies that have linked sudden cardiac death to anything but a weak association with cholesterol levels.(hence the now recommended lower importance in “numbers.”) Third, recent studies are coming together in agreement that it is PARTICLE SIZE and INFLAMMATION that are most positively connect to sudden death and first time non-lethal MIs. Statins are believed to “stabilize” the fatty deposits and the “lowering” of cholesterol is not the factor responsible for a reduction in cardiovascular events. Most MDs are not identifying the complications of statins but rather associate the patient’s complaints with other issues.
    In my case my physician said she would have thought my pain in my hips, knees and legs was do to arteritis or aging. After discussion she commented that practically every patient on statins complains about the side effects. Now that she has personally experienced the statin side effects, after being prescribed Crestor, her awareness to the problem has greatly increased. The cognitive impairment is the least identified but may yet prove to be the drug’s undoing. I predict that within 10 years statins will be completely removed from common practice and replaced with some form of anti-inflammatory agent. It’s a case of the treatment causing more distress than the illness. Use this class of drug with caution and discus other options with your health care provider.

  9. j Williams

    My story begins with the drug Lipitor (40mg daily).
    Recently, an MRI scan confirmed dementia. I’m 60 years old with a brain…I’m told…the age of a 70 to 80 year old woman.

  10. anony mouse

    Said it before, and it bears repeating: my 93 year-old mom has been on Crestor for more years than I can count. She started with severe muscle pain, then had problems with her balance, then couldn’t walk without a walker, can now barely get around even with the walker, developed cataracts, and now is diabetic. I wouldn’t touch statins with a 20 foot pole, no matter how high my cholesterol is.

  11. J A S

    Started Lipotor was taking it for two or three months, when I noticed cramps in the calfs of my legs numbness in my feet and it seemed like my right hip was froze up and did not want to work at times, then I got to where I could hardly walk the pains were so bad in the bottoms of my feet, my doctor told me I’d die if I stopped taking the medicine. I stopped taking the Lipitor about a year ago and I’ve never felt better. I have had cataract surgery on both eyes and lens implants, I do not regret that I stopped taking it.

  12. GaryG

    I’m confident that a statin drug caused me to experience multiple spontaneous tendon tears.
    I’m 73 years old. Quite a few years ago my PCP prescribed a statin to control cholesterol. The cholesterol level decreased to within the normal range, but in 2008 I was diagnosed with three coronary artery blockages and had bypass surgery. I continued taking the statin.
    Two months ago I experienced acute pain in both shoulders without any related trauma. The right shoulder was very bad. An MRI revealed that the bicep tendon had a full width tear and two other tendons had partial tears. Since I’m fairly physically fit (other than the heart of course), the orthopedist ok’d rotator cuff surgery and I’m now undergoing PT. I’m progressing at a better than average rate, but it will be months before I have full use of the shoulder. I read that for some, recovery can take up to a year! All this because of a very widely prescribed and relatively benign drug. The phrase: “cure is worse than the cause” has new meaning for me.

  13. robert bob l.

    You should not take your risk taking medicine what you should do is take care of you self by changing your life style. What always they said is “prevention is better than cure”.

  14. Ben G

    I have been taking 20 mg daily of Ran-Simvastatin for 5 years now and have had no side effects. I have an annual checkup and will be talking to doctor about side effects. The positive side is I have had no cardiac problems to this point (turning 60 in a few months). Cardiac issues are hereditary with parents and siblings. I am enjoying life and not worrying about the next chronic pain that may appear. When it happens I deal with it.

  15. James E.

    I have been on statins, but quit in march 2011. the pain never stopped. My whole body is racked with pain. I guess I could say it is all the statin drug, but I also believe that the flouroquinolone antiobiotic is a big part of the problem.
    The real problem is that the F.D.A. and the drug companies are pouring drugs out every day with little or no testing. This problem is destroying thousands of people. Either they die or they are patients the rest of their lives with some very painful diseases inflicted by the drug companies. They are destroying and mutating the cells in our bodies.
    I was a stupid sheep like everyone else and believed a doctor would do no harm, but I assure you they will and do. I have reported to the V.A. in Memphis about what these drugs have done to me. They tell me they have been approved by the F.D.A.. I want to bust out laughing every time I hear this.
    The drug companies knew these drugs were killers when they first developed them, but they did not care if they destroyed thousands. More work for doctors and drug companies to develop drugs for all the problems they have created. I am 65 years old and 3 years ago, I started looking for the reason I was sick and hurt so bad. 30 something doctors later and I have not been told anything.
    Be your own judge about how bad you feel and try to remember how you use to feel. Go back to the natural way of living. Our food has been destroyed and our bodies have been destroyed by greedy and corrupt people. I will be waiting on the other side for them along with thousands of others whose lives have been made miserable. Make your own decisions, but make sure before you put a pill in your body, do you own research. good luck to all of you.

  16. cathy m

    anti statin were you diagnosed type 2 diabetic while you were taking statins??…I was, and I never had any diabetic symptoms….but I stopped taking statins over 2 years ago…and every blood test I’ve had since then…my blood sugar has been nowhere near diabetic…I’m sure it was the statins that caused the rise in blood sugar levels…

  17. Suemorgan

    Genetically high cholesterol (300), 53 year old female, no health problems, normal weight, exercise, eat extremely well and always have. Doctors prescribed 40 mg lipitor, felt fine but CPK test showed muscle damage so was told to immediately discontinue. Year or two later another doctor insisted I go on 80mg of Simvastatin.
    Within two weeks developed serious peripheral neuropathy and within 3 weeks stopped sleeping and started having electrical seizures in my head and up my spine. After a couple of weeks of literally no sleep, I was feeling very crazy and very sick. Couldn’t stop crying and while normally a very gregarious extrovert, could not stand to be around people or stimulation of any kind. Which made work very difficult.
    To make a long story short, a return visit to the doctor resulted in an appointment with a neurologist to consider MS or some other neuro disease. I suggested I quit the statin to try and isolate what was wrong and the doctor agreed. After extensive testing for all kinds of things, I was told my symptoms were from menopause and prescribed an antidepressant. Grrrrrr.
    It is now 6 years later, I still have intermittent peripheral neuropathy but fortunately the rest of the symptoms subsided pretty quickly after discontinuing the drug.
    It made me angry that the medical profession and the drug caused the problem, but I was told I was just menopausal. I was way too sick to be just menopausal.

  18. condoline

    In 2010 I made the mistake of stopping Simvastatin cold turkey after one year on it because I came upon the warning to physicians in Europe from the Pharmacological Working Group of the European Medicines Agency to the effect that if interstitial lung disease develops they should stop statins immediately.
    About three weeks after I quit the statin, I had statin rebound like no tomorrow! Not only did the peripheral neuropathy which developed during my year on Pravachol back in 1994-1995 and which had been very mild and unchanged for over a decade suddenly flare up and become a real problem, but I had ten nights of severe leg cramps, I developed a patch of bright red eczema on both legs, my pulmonary fibrosis which I now have x-ray proof developed when I was on Pravachol and which had been unchanged (no breathing problems) in my decade-plus being away from statins took my lungs down so far that I am now on supplemental oxygen 24/7, but – and here’s what would interest you – the day when all this first hit, May 18, 2010, was the day I suddenly experienced tachycardia and ten days of nightmarish arrhythmias, all for the first time in my 77 years.
    I had never had tachycardia before in my life. I was terrified. What followed was an ambulance ride to the hospital. I had two more attacks of tachy that same week – then one a few months later – then one December 25, 2010, and that was the end of the tachy.
    In between the tachy, every day for about ten days I had “attacks” of the weirdest heart rhythms imaginable over and over every day. These spaced themselves out and likewise disappeared. Nothing like that had ever happened to me before either.
    My local doctors had me on a heart monitor for a month and Mayo Clinic had me on 24-hour monitoring for a week. Plenty of record of my arrhythmias.
    The arrhythmias are long gone. Either they left because I went on mega doses of CoQ10 or whether they would have left anyhow. I only know that ubiquinone improves the cardiac endothelium.
    At first the Mayo cardiologist who put in my two cardiac stents insisted, over the phone when I made my first of several panic calls to him, that statins and arrhythmias have no connection to each other. He has since changed his mind. Now he also says I am statin intolerant. This diagnosis came a bit late, methinks,

  19. Derek S

    I’m 65 and had a mild heart attack 4 months ago. After having a stent fitted I was put on 7.5mg Ramipril, 5mg Amlodipine and 80mg Lipitor. My rehab was progressing really well, I have always been very fit, lots of gym and a 5 mile run every Sunday morning since I was 25.
    After a few months I had a couple of incidences of rapid heartbeat whilst out exercising, 160-180 bpm going on for up to 15 mins even after standing still, (normally when walking as fast as I can it’s about 115, I wear a HR monitor to track my progress). Now after 4 months I am getting these tachycardia events almost every time I go for a walk, even a gentle walk, and it’s basically destroyed my ability to exercise. I’m convinced this is because of medication as I’ve just had a stress echocardiogram and my heart is pronounce as being in excellent condition, even though during the procedure it suddenly went up to 197bpm, proving I haven’t been making it up!
    The big question is which med is causing the problem?
    I was on a calcium channel blocker for years before my heart attack so it’s unlikely to be Amlodipine, that leaves Ramipril or Lipitor, has anyone had any similar experiences, I’m at my wits end, my consultant doesn’t believe it’s the statin?

  20. Helen M

    I am so sorry to hear of your travails with statins. Your mention of peripheral neuropathy makes me wonder if you have ever had your blood glucose checked, or your A1c. Statins raise blood sugars, another side effect suppressed for years and one, as a diabetic, I learned, when I self quit, that I had problems from. About a week after stopping lipitor, I found myself with “mysterious” low readings. In the end I decreased my insulin by about a third. Yet never connected it with the statin until I read, several years later, of this side effect.
    Big pharma is at fault for always putting profits before people. However doctors share blame too; they allow themselves to be educated (hah) by the drug companies – or influenced by pharma’s bribes.
    If government were not so corrupt it would have the power to protect the public from these excesses of greed. Certainly the appropriate agencies are in place.

  21. condoline

    Like many statin victims, I am a senior citizen who was in excellent health until the medical profession decided to “save” me from something or other (heart attack? stroke? good health?) by prescribing statins. So I took statins in 1994 and quit after about a year, again in 1997 and quit, and then in 2009 when a doctor at the renowned Mayo Clinic persuaded me to take Simvastatin. I took it for one year. I am now on oxygen 24/7.
    I told one doctor after another that Pravachol in the mid-1990’s caused my peripheral neuropathy (self diagnosis confirmed by a neurological clinic in 2004), but neither I nor the two doctors who (possibly) were willing to believe that I knew what I was talking about had the least idea that my lungs were also harmed by statins (or Zetia, believe it or not). Until the few years, I knew even less about statins and cholesterol than any of the physicians I went to (not easy, but I managed), else with my suspecting Pravachol to be the cause for my neuropathy plus my knowing what I know now about statins, cholesterol, the electron chain and much, much else of relevance, I would never have agreed to Zetia in 2005 or simvastatin in 2009, and I certainly would not have quit the latter so abruptly.
    Now I know better, but it’s too late. Upon getting my old medical records from the 1990’s, I found that 10 months on Pravachol were “bookmarked” by x-ray “lungs clear, heart normal” at the beginning and “minimal pulmonary fibrosis all four lobes… area of opaqueness possibly cancer or old fibrosis…” and on and on, a long report of the damage I had incurred. And there were no confounding variables: no other drugs taken, no exposure to external toxins of any sort.
    Correlation/causation error? Not in my case, obviously – but would it have mattered? Statin authority Dr. Beatrice Golomb of the University of California at San Diego finds no credible evidence that statins confer a mortality benefit on seniors or women of any age, even as secondary prevention. From the mountain of data at her disposal, she concludes that the possibility of risk exceeds any possibility of benefit from statins for seniors like me. I wish I had known that a long time ago!
    Statins mess with the mevalonate pathway. Every cell in the body is affected. Since statins are not all that effective, ought not a person be given the benefit of the doubt with regard to AE’s when his health, perhaps even his very life, may be at stake?
    I am only one victim of an industry that has put an obscene amount of time and money into determined attempts to fortify its hugely money-making but problematic cholesterol hypothesis while the identification and study of far less lucrative but much safer preventions and treatments for CAD generally have lacked funding and the worst statin AE’s have been for the most part hushed up. For example, a neurobiologist e-mailed me that statins have long been known to be “absolutely horrible for the brain” (Alzheimer-like effects on neurons) although that AE went missing from the lists of what the industry euphemistically calls “side effects” until fairly recently. At least with most statins now off patent, the hype has simmered down, but the damage marches on. “Above all, do no harm”? How ineffably quaint!

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