bottles of crestor lipitor and simvastatin cholesterol-lowering drugs

When Mevacor (lovastatin) was first marketed in 1987 it quickly became a game changer. That’s because it was perceived as extremely effective for lowering cholesterol with far fewer side effects than existing drugs.

Prior to this first statin-type cholesterol-lowering medication there was a certain amount of ambivalence about cholesterol lowering drugs. Lopid (gemfibrozil) was one of the best known and most successful medications prior to Mevacor. It lowered bad LDL cholesterol a modest 11 percent. Although it appeared to reduce the risk of heart attacks, it came with a list of side effects including gallstones, indigestion, stomach pain, diarrhea, nausea, flatulence, dizziness, blurred vision, headache, numbness or nerve tingling, lowered libido and erectile dysfunction.

Mevacor seemed like a fabulous alternative and it quickly became the hottest cholesterol-lowering drug on the market. Its success spawned lots of other statins including Atorvastatin (Lipitor)
, Fluvastatin (Lescol)
, Pitavastatin (Livalo)
, Pravastatin (Pravachol)
, Rosuvastatin (Crestor)
, Simvastatin (Zocor)
 and Simvastatin + Ezetimibe (Vytorin).

Initially, most doctors believed that statins had few, if any, side effects. Tens of millions of people were prescribed these drugs even if they had hardly any risk factors for heart disease. In some cases doctors encouraged people to take a statin “just in case,” even if their cholesterol levels were relatively “normal.” The assumption was that the drugs were so safe there was no reason not to take them even if the person was in good health.

When we started hearing reports from people that they were suffering muscle pain and weakness, memory problems, erectile dysfunction, peripheral neuropathy or blood sugar elevations, we were told by some health professionals that these were old folks just showing signs of normal aging. These physicians insisted that such side effects could not possibly be due to statins.

We didn’t buy it, but it was hard to convince some statin enthusiasts that the drugs might be taking a toll on otherwise healthy people. Over the last two decades we have received so many stories from individuals that we could have written a book. In fact we did! We included these stories in two books, Best Choices From The People’s Pharmacy and Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them. There are also hundreds or reports on this website.

Most physicians now agree that statins can indeed cause muscle pain and weakness. Some acknowledge that there can be cognitive dysfunction for certain patients. There is even data to suggest that statins can cause fatigue, especially after exercise (Archives of Internal Medicine, Aug. 13/27, 2012).

The unanswered question, though, is do some side effects persist, even after the statins have been discontinued. There have been very few studies even examining this issue. One intrepid researcher, Beatrice Golomb, MD, PhD, has suggested that some individuals are especially susceptible to statin side effects. For them, adverse reactions can be devastating and may linger for a very long time. To hear Dr. Golomb describe this scary scenario, click on the arrow at the top of this page.
We just received a poignant comment from a visitor to this webiste. We felt compelled to share Donna’s story:

“Everyone needs to know that statins can do permanent nerve and muscle damage!
“I stopped taking them more than a year ago and I am still in pain, still can’t walk upstairs without pain and my CK (muscle enzymes) are still elevated; so are my liver enzymes.
Those meds need to be taken off the market. Some people develop rhabdomyolosis from taking statins and some even die from it. They are harmful and there’s no getting around that.
“I have permanent damage to my muscles and they continue to deteriorate. I am frightened and I have undergone many tests, EMG’s (electromyography); MRI’s; multiple blood tests and a deep muscle biopsy. The results of the biopsy were “unspecified inflammatory myopathy”. Since there was no absolute diagnosis of any disease I am left with no treatment.
“The doctor told me not to lift anything heavy and to drink lots and lots of water. I used to walk 2 miles a day and lift free weights to stay in shape. Now I can no longer do that. I can’t sleep soundly anymore. I wake up throughout the night from anxiety now, which I never had before this. I’m scared and don’t know what to do.
I go for a blood test every 3 months to monitor the CK levels, which were at 2010 (the highest they’ve been yet) and that was in July of this year. I’m due for another blood test this month for my annual physical and I’m so afraid they will be higher.
“I hurt all over most of the time but I continue to go to work and try not to think about the pain. There should be a law against this sort of thing. My doctor frightened me into taking them. She told me if I didn’t take them I would die of a heart attack or liver disease. Please pray for me. I’m afraid.”

Even after 25 years of statin experience there is a lot we do not know about such drugs. A recent study revealed what we have worried about for a long time and that is that statins may increase the risk for cataracts. Whether these drugs contribute to ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) or permanent muscle problems such as those described by Donna above, we do not know. We do know that for otherwise healthy people, there are alternate ways to reduce the risk of heart disease, heart attacks and strokes. You can learn about them in our books and guides.

Anyone who would like to share a story (positive or negative) about statins may do so below.

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  1. Faith

    If there are studies being done on how to reverse the muscle weakness from statins please post information. Or if there are specialists or research hospitals working on this please advise. My best friend is unable to make any progress no matter what she does please help.

  2. Trish

    I was put on jamp-atorvastatin. I am a 45 yr old type 1 diabetic. I took them for 3 weeks. This Monday, my lips were numb. I thought it may have been something I ate. Tuesday, I woke up and could hardly move my left arm. It was excruciatingly painful. I thought I’d slept funny on it. I had moments of extremely fuzzy vision. My eye sight is next to perfect. I also felt confused. I had to fill a form out with the date on it and I couldnt remember what year it was. It was pretty scary. Then, I felt sick and spent the afternoon running to the bathroom throwing up. The pain in my arm turned into numbness that went right into my fingers. I also has facial numbness aside from my lips. At 6:30 pm, my husband took me to the hospital. They ruled out heart or stroke but couldn’t tell me what it was. I figured it out at 4:00 am today. The Dr didn’t even ask about meds :( I hope I’m not stuck with this arm pain & weakness forever :(.

  3. Delila
    Dallas TX

    I have developed muscle weakness and renal problems due to Simvastatin and unable to walk. I am concerned if I will ever walk again. Can anyone tell me if they were unable to walk and now can walk again?

  4. Chuck O
    Raleigh, NC

    Doctor put me on a statin ( Atorvastatin 10MG ) two months ago when he already had me on Fenofibrate. I made the mistake of not reading up on this combination ( doing his job, in my opinion ) before I started taking the statin.

    I do physical work in my job and bent my thumb to the side when carrying a ladder. No big deal at the time just a scratched knuckle and a bit or discomfort but that’s been about two months and the joint has become sorer and sorer ever since. ?? Had a crown put in at the dentist 3 months ago and was experiencing burnt nerve type pain which I thought was from the numbing injections. Instead of getting better it has continued to get worse and worse until last week I went back to the dentist and he said the crown would have to be redone because “it” has shifted and food is getting caught down between the original tooth, the crown and the tooth behind it.

    I remember biting down on a small piece of chicken and a little piece of grizzle about a month ago. It was forced in there and I believe that was when the tooth tore away from the gums on one side and leaned over some. Three days ago I started having severe pain in my mouth on the lower and opposite side from the crown about 10 to 15 minutes after I ate or drank anything. It got so bad by evening that my entire left side of my mouth including my throat was throbbing. All the normal remedies for tooth pain didn’t work. Took my temp and 2 degrees under normal probably contributed to the two Advil I was on for pain. Surprisingly putting on my motorcycle helmet helped subside the pain. ??? That evening I noticed teeth in my mouth other than the crowned tooth also seemed to be loose in the gums after eating. Making a squishy noise I haven’t heard since I was a first grader with a loose baby tooth.

    I searched the web since it was late Sunday evening on a holiday weekend and eliminated possibilities down to statin and fibrates taken together. I skipped both pills that evening and by morning 90% of the pain and symptoms are gone during and after eating . The loose tooth issue after chewing a while still remains and it is painful but only when I feel the tooth or teeth actually try to move. I have a call into my doctor that prescribed the statin/fibrate pills but its been three hours and so far no response. Hummm? I cancelled the dental appointment to have the crown redone in two days. I really don’t what the dentist prying the bad crown off if the tooth is loose in the gums. That sounds like a recipe for disaster. Sure hope these issues are not permanent. I have always had really good teeth. Not even a cavity until I was 30 and now in my late fifties I just had to have a second crown.

  5. Betty

    I got off Statin(Lipitor) 3 weeks ago. I am depressed, have anger, no patients, and very tired. I wonder how long after 4 -5 years on this drug, will I ever be normal again. I stumble, am very weak at times. Gained terrible weight, and now have too fight too get my weight back down. My head always feel like it is in a swimming pool. terrible feeling. I am so off balance some times. I was on 40 mg tab. I wished I would have looked into the effects of this drug and what it can do too the body before I agreed too take it.

  6. Sabrina
    Priest river, ID

    My case is the same. Was on lipitor for 5 yrs at 10mg then 2 yrs at 20mg. I suffered extreme muscle pain in my shoulders, wrists, knees, and ankles. The more I exercised, the worse the pain would be after resting. After comparing of muscle pain for 2 yrs, I stopped taking lipitor in December of 2014. Against my doctors wishes. The pain persists. My doctor has ordered a knee xray after my insisting on some answers. He refusing to consider my pain is from lipitor. He also tells me that he won’t be able to tell if there is muscle damage from the xray but doesn’t want to order expensive tests. He already tested for arthritis and it was negative. I’m frustrated with his lack of ability to relate to my pain. He won’t give me pain meds and just wants me on anti depressants. I have been in a few antidepressants and do not like the side effects (ie anxiety, hyperactivity, emotionally numb). I want a diagnosis first.


  7. Dan
    Arkansas U. S.

    I have been off statins for 8 months and the muscle and joint pains are still seriously effecting my quality of life. If I sit or am quiet for over 10 or 15 minutes movement is very painful for the first moments. But, the pain never leaves. Cannot make a fist with either hand, knees continuously pop, and feet are sore to walk on. Tried steroids, and attained complete relief, but only for the short term, as the aches and pains returned shortly after the regimen was over. My worst fear is that this is a permanent situation.

  8. Patricia W.

    I have severe nerve and muscle pains and I found out that it’s caused by Simvastatin.
    Sometimes it’s extremely painful to walk or even get out of bed in the morning. If I sit for a short while, it’s hard to get up without pain. What can I do to help myself?

  9. Shawn

    Started Zocor in January . Weight gain, lack of energy. 2 weeks ago, 6 months after starting Zocor my blood sugar dropped and I was hospitalized twice. I am not able to keep blood sugar level even with proper eating. All blood tests come back negative and although liver enzymes were elevated in the hospital, they are now normal. I also have tingling in my arms. My blood sugar is still very low and will not stay up . I stopped taking all meds a week ago, although the doctors say it is not the Zocor, but anxiety (anxiety does not lower sugar) , I am convinced it is the Zocor that has done this to me. I am 58, female in otherwise Excellent health. Doc put me on Zocor as preventative although my good cholesterol was 90 And bad was 185. My question is, if in fact it was the Zocor, how long before my sugar levels become normal again?

  10. Dianne

    I started taking Lipitor in 1999 about a year later I quit taking them. As of today 2015 I still get really tired and muscle aches. Some days are good and some are I am exhausted it is hard to work. I have been tested and can’t find anything wrong. I believe it is the side effects of Lipitor and they are permanent.

  11. John

    I took Lipitor 10mg and my A1C went from 5.4 to 5.7 in two months, which puts me at the pre diabetic level. The doctor knew that my father, grandmother, and brother and other relatives have diabetes. The doctor did not tell me about the dangers. I read the recent Finnish study that said the chances of getting diabetes with my risk factors can be as high as 50%. This is malpractice. My cholesterol was 227 with no factors(no plaque on the carotid ultrasound) and the doctor gave me 20mg and that shot my cholesterol down to 128(can go nuts at this level) then reduced the dosage to 10mg, but the total cholesterol was 139 after another 2 months, which is still at the go nuts level. Now I am taking 2.5mg(5mg every other day) and will see in two months how things look.

  12. Patricia
    Pittsburgh Pa

    Ten years ago I was put on 80mg Zocor/Simvastatin for an overall cholesterol level of 250. I was a healthy active 43 year old, no family history of heart disease. After several months of taking this medication I could no longer climb stairs, walk my daily mile, ride my horse or complete schooling for a career change for nursing. With numerous complaints to the doctor the response I received was the discomfort of side affects outweigh the risk of heart attack or stroke. With my inactivity due to pain, I gained weight eventhough I went to extreemes of changing my diet to no fat, low cholesterol. I now developed high blood pressure, constant fatigue and worsening muscle pain, joint tenderness, tingling in my fingers and toes. I finally quit taking the Simvastatin, but my symptoms only improved slightly. Eight years later they diagnosed me with fibromyalgia. Coinsidence? I don’t think so, my personal belief is the high dose of the statin caused irreversable damage to my body and made a healthy person into an unhealthy person who has had their active lifestyle turned upside down. So tell me how do those side affects outweigh what risks? I think all doctors should be required to have patients go through genetic drug sensitivity testing, especially when prescribing statins.

  13. brian

    12-10 2014 Lab A1C 5.8, Glucose morning 101
    3-19-15 Started 10 mg of Lipitor
    03-31 2015 Lab A1C 7.8, Glucose morning 144
    05-05 2015 Lab A1C 11.2, Glucose morning 250
    5-11 2015 Emergence ER visit Glucose 850
    5-11 to 5-14 Hospitalized on CCU unit
    05-13 2015 Lab A1C 11.7, Glucose morning 400
    5-22 stopped Lipitor against doctor and pharmacist advice.

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