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Another Serious Statin Side Effect!

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When lovastatin was first approved by the FDA in 1987 under the brand name Mevacor, it was perceived as a breakthrough in cholesterol reduction. Here was a drug that many believed would prevent heart disease without the unpleasant complications of previous types of cholesterol-lowering drugs. Merck, the maker of Mevacor, ramped up its marketing muscle. Together with the American Heart Association and the government's National Cholesterol Education Program, Merck was able to convince a lot of doctors and patients that Mevacor was the answer to America's number one killer.

Over the intervening years there have been lots more statins and drug companies have continued the campaign to convince physicians that such drugs are a safe solution to the plague of high cholesterol. The perception for decades has been that such drugs have huge benefits and few, if any, significant side effects. One, rhabdomyolysis or severe muscle breakdown, is considered extremely rare and not something most people need concern themselves about.

But over the years patients have become aware that there are a substantial number of serious side effects that can have a profound impact on their quality of life. Reluctantly, many health professionals have begun to acknowledge that maybe statins can produce some unexpected complications. The latest problem was just reported in the BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal) on March 19, 2013.

Canadian researchers tracked over 2 million patients from seven Canadian provinces as well as subjects in the U.S. and England. These were people put on statins between 1997 and 2008. Over 600,000 were receiving what are classed as high dose or high-potency statins.

High Dose or High-Potency Statins Defined:

Atorvastatin (Lipitor): 20 mg or more
Simvastatin (Zocor): 40mg or more
Rosuvastatin (Crestor): 10 mg or more

The Canadian investigators discovered that when people were exposed to these "high-dose" or "high-potency" statins compared to either no statin, niacin, lower doses or lower-potency statins, they experienced an increased risk for kidney injury or failure. The damage was detectable within the first 4 months of treatment and remained elevated for at least two years. To be specific, those on high potency statins (as defined above) were 34% more likely to be hospitalized with acute kidney injury compared to the control patients.

Many health professionals will pooh-pooh this kind of "observational" study. Even though the researchers examined a large number of patients over a long period of time, it is not considered gold-standard research. That would require a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study where some patients get a sugar pill while others get the active drug. They are then followed for a specified length of time. Such RCTs (randomized controlled trials) are perceived as the best kind of research.

One such trial was called JUPITER (Justification for the Use of Statins in Prevention: an Intervention Trial Evaluating Rosuvastatin). It compared 20 mg of Crestor (rosuvastatin) with placebo and involved 18,000 patients. Look carefully at the data and you will discover that there was indeed a signal. Although not statistically significant, there was a 19% increased risk of kidney failure in the patients taking Crestor. If you looked carefully at creatinine levels (a measure of kidney function) in the Crestor patients, the risk increased to 35%.

Another large epidemiological study published in BMJ of statin users (also involving over 2 million patients) noted an increased risk of kidney failure. In this study the relative risk was greater than 50%.

What are we to make of this new study and prior research? The authors suggest that high-potency statins (as described above) could be depleting the body of Coenzyme Q10, and this might be contributing to the problem. We would encourage patients to discuss lower doses of statins or lower-potency statins (if statins are essential for preventing a second heart attack) with their physicians and talk about the role of Coenzyme Q10 in possibly reducing the risk of kidney damage. We would also encourage patients to be carefully monitored for kidney function regardless of dose.

Other side effects of statins that have come to light over the last two decades include:

STATIN SIDE EFFECTS:

• Headache


• Muscle aches, muscle cramps, muscle pain, spasms:
(anywhere in the body, including legs, shoulders, back, arms or neck)

• Fatigue, weakness


• Arthritis, joint pain, joint stiffness
• Abdominal pain, digestive upset, nausea, diarrhea

, flatulence
• Blood sugar elevation, diabetes


• Sore throat, flu symptoms, sinusitis


• Dizziness


• Itching, rash

, hives
• Liver damage, liver failure, kidney damage


• Insomnia, sleeping difficulties, nightmares


• Forgetfulness, memory problems, amnesia, confusion

, cognitive dysfunction
• Peripheral neuropathy, nerve tingling, nerve burning


• Pancreatitis


• Cataracts
• Sexual problems, erectile dysfunction, low libido

We have been disheartened to learn that many of these side effects were not discovered during the original drug testing period. Although the FDA puts great faith in randomized controlled trials, many drug complications are not discovered through this process. It is only after years on the market that researchers uncover some of the more common or more serious adverse reactions noted above.

If you would like to learn more about the flaws in our regulatory and medical system, you will find our book, Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them of interest. You may also appreciate our book, Best Choices From The People's Pharmacy with a wide range of options to deal with things like high cholesterol, hypertension and arthritis. They can all be found in The People's Pharmacy Store.

And please comment below on your experience with atorvastatin, rosuvastatin (Crestor), simvastin or other statin-type cholesterol-lowerind drugs.

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39 Comments

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Over the past 15 years I have been placed on every statin manufactured: from Zocor to Livilor---I have had severe side effects tp every one: from swelling ankles, rashes, severe back pain, extreme fatigue, aching joints, and now I refuse to take any more of them. I have also tried Niacin, Zetia, and other non-statins. I will try to watch my diet and exercise to see if that will help bring my numbers down.

My doctor believes in statins for control of cholesterol and, in my case, they work. However, I suffer from or am affected by 8 of the side effects listed above. I take Crestor 10mg, one pill every other day and want to give it up because of the uncomfortable effects.

I was on Lipitor and them Simvastin for a number of years. I became "an old man" according to my wife. I had great difficulty going up stairs, had a loss of memory, was constantly tired, lacked energy, etc. My cardiologist would not believe that the statins were the fault. Another medical issue arose and that doctor took me off statin drugs. Within one month, I returned to normal. I will never take a statin drug again.

During the span of many years, I have been prescribed Zocor, Lipicor, and Mevacor and have experienced Cataracts, Peripheral Neuropathy, mostly in my lips and feet, Insomnia, Severe Muscle Aches among other ills. My physician now wants to prescribe Crestor and I told him that was not going to happen. I researched non-statin Cholesterol drugs and found that Welchol was the only one which, supposedly, didn't have the statin type side effects - but after taking it for about a month, experienced some of the same side effects as I had while taking statins. So, I've decided to live with my high Cholesterol.

I took Lipitor for quite a few years when I started to experience various muscle problems. I had rotator cuff problems and then a year later had a muscle detach from the shoulder. My doctor took me off Lipitor immediately and entered in my medical records that I was allergic to statins. I now take Lipofen which I understand is not in the statin category and it maintains my cholesterol levels in a good range. I'm concerned about taking any medications due to the consequences that might be caused by them. The jury is still out on the effects of Lipofen.

My desire has always been to fight the high cholesterol naturally without medication, but that does not seem to work so well for my particular body chemistry.

My late brother-in-law was put on statins. He developed kidney failure and diabetes after he had been on them awhile. He was in his 60s when he suddenly collapsed and died, in his home.

My husband was put on pravastatin quite a number of years ago. Then a couple of years ago he began having disturbing memory issues, was tested and advised he has early Alzheimer's. Donepizil was prescribed....little improvement noticed but is still taking it. After much research he questioned the doctor about the pravastatin drug. The doctor took him off the drug altogether and he's now on Omega 3 as a substitute. After a few months off the statin drug, his memory issues have improved considerably. I'm amazed!

For the record, he's in his mid-70's with other medical issues & meds prior to going on statins. But the memory problems that stood out have most notably improved after statins were removed. Whether the Donepizil is helping and to what degree still remains to be seen.

I began having twitches in my legs (no pain) that was very irritating. After taking 40 mg. Crestor for a year or so, I reduced to 20 mg., and they stopped.

Add a couple of others. My overdose of Zocor/simvastatin poison ( 30 mg. /day) gave me vascular parkinson's, type 2 diabetes AND peripheral neuropathy. That's enough for any one person, isn't it?

All this side effects that do happen, have happened to me: the night mares, the cramping, the sleepness, the weakness.

Have told my doctor, but he just looks at me and tells me to continue with my medications. It has gotten that i just don't tell anyone anymore, because they just think i am a cry baby.

I took a statin drug for 3 months and developed severe joint pain---when I told my Dr. about the pain in my joints he poo pooed it and said this medication doesn't cause joint pain -well I told him don't think that's correct, because, I stopped taking the statin drug and within 2 weeks the joint pain went away - not everyone has the same reaction to medications and I don't like picking at Dr's (because I have had some great ones) but they need to listen, once again to their patients, when someone tells them they are having joint pain that they didn't have before the medication.

Their are too many issues with these drugs and none of them are good.

By the way I was on the lowest dose of 10mg. I had a problem with it and no Dr. can tell me that I imagined my joint pain because it was excruiating and it wasn't fun at all and being that it all went away after I stopped the medication tells you something and I have never had the joint pain since!

The pain I had was in all my joints!

I'm a 75 year old female in good health. A little less than 3 years ago my doctor became concerned with my cholesterol levels and prescribed Lovastatin. Within 6 months my knees were hurting so badly I could hardly climb the 4 steps at my back door. I remember taking a friend to Epcot and having to leave early because of the pain in my knees.

After checking others' comments on line I decided to stop the Lovastatin. Within 2 months my knees were pain free and remain so to this day.

Every time I have lab work done, the cholesterol is brought up again and I tell the doctor to forget it; I'm never taking a statin drug again.

I was put on simvastatin several months ago. The side effects were debilitating. I was always in a fog, could barely walk and had to
go in a wheel chair if I would walk for any length of time. I felt no
energy the pain in my body was horrendous. Joints, muscles, kidneys.
I was told I would have a stroke or heart attack if I did not take these
drugs.

I finally had enough when my kidney function started to become
affected. I found myself a integrated doctor who has done more for me
in two months then the Doctors could do in a year.


They push these drugs that do permanent damage to you and your quality of
life is terrible. I have been left with trigger finger and something in
the heal of my foot. Since I did not have these symptoms before taking
this drug I know this drug had something to do with this.


Where is the consumers protection against these drug manufacturers.
Do yourself a favor and find a Dr. who wants to get you off all meds and find the route of your problem not treat the symptom....I feel for all who have suffered with these statins...

A few weeks ago I was prescribed Simvador (Simvastatin). After a few days I started with ankle pains/cramps. These continued over the next few days to my knees, then thighs,then hips. After two weeks and three days I felt reduced to taking pain killers so that I could sleep, as the pain kept me awake. Long term this was not a good idea, so, at this point I decided to stop taking the statin. It took a further 3 weeks for the aches/pains/cramps to go away. I went back to the doctor to report on what had happened and was prescribed another statin, this time Lipitor. Meanwhile I had been doing research into the side effects of statins. I came to the conclusion there were too many very unpleasant side effects reported by too many people over too long a period and they could not all be wrong. I will not be taking any more statins!

I have been taking Vytorin 10/20 for several years now. Kidney and liver functions have been normal and I have no side effects as listed in your article. My LDL has remained at 120 and my HDL at 85. I have my bloodwork every six months. Prior to this my LDL was around 260 and HDL around 50.

Am I in for trouble? So far, I will stay with this regime and continue with low fat diet. I have also lost 40 pounds in the past several years and have about 25 to go.

Rose, I have taken many different statins over the years and when the dosages were increased, I experienced some of the symptoms listed. [muscle aches, lethargy and fuzzy thinking] I have been off statins for several years and at 72, I feel great.

If your doctor ignores your complaints, get a new doctor! If you don't want to do that then ignore him when he is wrong. Most doctors are good, but some are insensitive, stubborn or just wrong. You are the best judge of what feels good or bad to your body.

Good luck.

Since when is Cholesterol a bad thing? It has been in every cell in our body since man was put on this earth...And never was a problem until we began to "produce" foods in a factory. If you want to reduce your inflammation, DO NOT TAKE A DRUG...we need to consume foods which naturally reduce inflammation in our bodies...Spinach, Berries, Nuts, Raisins etc all have a high ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) These will do you much better than any lab derived chemical..

What about red yeast rice? I've read that this grain is as effective in lowering cholesterol, but without the side effects. I haven't read any actual studies, though. I'm a PT and have treated many patients on statins and nearly all experience negative side effects.

My Mother, age 80, took Lipitor for almost a year. Rhabdomyolysis may be rare indeed, but my Mother GOT it. She went to take a bath, and was so weak she was unable to get out of the bathtub - for over eight hours. She sat the tub, cold, weak, and without the body strength to get out. When my sister could not reach Mom via phone, she got a neighbor enter Mom's home with an extra key.

Mom is not 'big'. She is 5'4" tall, 125 lbs, and had been in relatively good health. If she had been in that tub 2 more hours, the emergency room doctor said she would have died. Mom spent a week in the hospital before she was strong enough to return home.

Lipitor caused her illness. She stopped taking the statin, but the drug did enough muscle damage that she has never been the same. Her muscle strength is gone, she tires easily, and she can no longer do the things she once did with ease.

TRY IT...WHY NOT

A friend of mine takes 2 teaspoons of vinegar in his orange juice each morning. He said it is supposed to lower your cholesterol in 2 weeks.

I would try it in any juice..lime juice seems good as it is tart also.

I've had may of the same problems with statins reported in these emails, and also now refuse to take it. One of the downsides to this refusal is that when doctors dismiss my reports of side effects, I start doubting their advice about other medications too. I handle that by doing lots of research before filling new prescriptions, but that doesn't change the fact that my distrust of some areas of their competence has increased, and that makes me frustrated and uncomfortable! I'm 78 and don't think changing doctors frequently will improve my health either! Sigh...

I continue to be amazed at the volume of complaints about statin side effects, As a victim of zocor/simvastatin (vascular parkinsonism, diabetes,neuropathy) I stopped taking this med long after I should have quit. Nevertheless, my physician who has climbed aboard the statin bandwagon keeps telling me to start taking it again. Why?

I realize that the evidence about side-effects, plentiful as it is, is anecdotal and not "scientific." But it appears to be plentiful but not focused on any one syndrome.

I also had many of the side effects mentioned... When I discussed with doctor he said he was sure that zocor wasn't the cause. I took this med for 5 years before I couldn't stand all the aches and pains anymore.

Not being able to raise my arm above my head due to shoulder/joint pain and tanking testosterone levels was the deal breaker. I quit taking this med about 2 years ago and still feel these side effects, although to a much lesser degree... The really sad thing is that the damage from statins often comes on so slowly - it is easy to blame aging for these problems and by the time you usually start to feel pain you are already messed up permanently.

This has taught me it is better to accept life on life's terms.

I was also on statins, tried them all with horrible side effects. Went online and found PLANT STEROLS. Can be found at Costco, works great. No side effects and levels going down. The red yeast is also in the statins group!! I also have some slight muscle weakness left, that won't go away. Swimming is good, you use all the muscles and is not to hard on the muscles.

If you quit, that is great, but you need an alternative. The PLANT STEROLS ARE THE ANSWERS. HANG IN THERE.

I am so happy to see there are large studies involving these "miracle" drugs that show they are a miracle for only a few. Shame on the FDA. I was proscribed simvastin five years ago and sunk into a chaotic depression so severe I lay in bed for hours and cried. I was too confused and disoriented to drive. The body pain in my legs, hips and upper back felt like I had been in a serious car crash. I realized it as a possible statin side effect and stopped them (2weeks.) It was several days before the depression started to lift, and weeks before the depression and body aches subsided.

Recently my new doctor was skeptical of my reaction to the simvastin and asked me to try Crestor, then Pravachol. He thinks statin drugs are miracle drugs too. Mostly the same results. The depression was not as severe, but the pain in my hips was so severe, I thought I was going to need a hip replacement. It took 2 months for the pain to mostly resolve. Incidentally, I am a 55 year old women, physically fit with no major health or physical ailments except high blood pressure and cholesterol contributed to genetics.

The evils of Lipitor. It may have helped by cholesterol levels. But over time I suffered incredible aches and pains in my arms and legs. I was not able to open a jar... I had to ask my young children to help me open jars. With that, I knew something was not right. I had once read and kept an article by Jane Brody of the NY Times. It spoke of, among other things, CPK levels and the testing that's available. Asked the cardiologist to add this test to my blood work order. They pooh-poohed me for thinking I had the problem discussed in the Jane Brody article and would not add this test to the order, because my designated doctor from that office was not available.

I would not give up. I felt I was onto something. So I asked my family doctor to issue the order and his order was piggybacked to the cardio's order. When the results came back, I think they would have stuck their heads in the sand if they could.

Then there were the mega doses of Niaspan. Honestly, I really believed I was a guinea pig for the doctor's experiments. Anyway, the mega doses of Niaspan burned a hole in my stomach that required taking Prevacid for months to repair my stomach. To this day, I still experience problems with my stomach.

I can tell you more but it would sound like a broken record.

I too took a statin, pravastatin, and after a few months my health fell apart. My creatinine went up, kidney function went down, rheumatoid factor went up, felt horrible! I asked my doctor if it was the statin since it all started after taking it. She refused to even consider it.

They were ready to diagnose me with anxiety disorder, rheumatoid arthritis & MS! Wtf! I stopped the statin on my own, and began to feel better. Low and behold my anxiety, joint pains, and brain fog/memory probs have gone away. Statins are evil! So Dave, I feel your frustration with your doctor :-(

I am very worried about my husband can someone help or advice. He has unstable angina and had 4 stents 2 years ago, he is not overweight never smoked and very fit usually and is 56. Dr put him on simvastatin 40mg to lower cholesterol. After a few months he had severe leg and calf cramps, told the Dr but was told would you rather have cramp or a heart attack or stroke and die!!

He carried on with statins. We are now at the point where every muscle aches, he falls asleep, has memory loss at times, strange light colored faeces, terrible kidney pains and has had to resort to taking liquid morphine over the weekend. He has been back and forth to the docs the last 2 months and had to take time off work. Went again last week and it was ME that suggested it was the statins after doing extensive research.

We are now waiting for blood results to see if statins have damaged muscles. He has not taken his statins for 3 weeks now and is not getting better. Are we right to be worried, and do the people here that have commented eventually get back normal? It is the kidney pain that concerns me. Thank You

Don't live with your high cholesterol and the consequences of it! It is a lifestyle condition. Read the book: Wheat Belly, in your local library. Wheat now has been mutated, and causes the classic unhealthy cholesterol pattern, as well as many other conditions. Instead of 4 foot amber waves of grain, it is now Pale 18 inch stubble, and has a higher glycemic index than any candy bar. There is nothing healthy about it. Meat from industrial "farming" is highly toxic, and contributes to this problem. So does eating nutrient depleted, processed food. Eating real fruit, vegetables, and farm raised animal products will undo your problems. Eat like our ancestors did, before industrial manufactured food, and you will feel better, and regain your health.

My father is 87 years old and has been on 10 mg of lipitor daily for the past 20 years. About two years ago he started experiencing weight loss and muscle atrophy. I could not convince him to stop the lipitor. He has now developed achalasia and has a jtube. Could this possibly be a side effect from the long term use of lipitor?

Well after my post on march 31st I am pleased to say my husband is now completely back to the active happy man he used to be !! He feels so much better after being riddled with pain and tierdness. He has been off statins for 4 weeks now and will NEVER take another statin :-))))

PEOPLE'S PHARMACY RESPONSE:

We are delighted that your husband is doing so much better now, but we would caution that he does need to be proactive to prevent problems from his heart disease. With 4 stents, he is a candidate for careful follow-up.

There are many ways to control cholesterol and other lipids (triglycerides, etc) besides taking statins. You may find this story of interest:

http://www.peoplespharmacy.com/2013/04/22/natural-approaches-to-cholesterol-control/

that is so sad to hear your mum must have been so afraid...there are so many stories about side effects of statins...even when you stop taking them I don't think you ever get rid of all the side effects...I took them for years ..5 different statins...I suffered pain and weakness in my arms and legs...I couldn't walk upstairs...then I was told I had type 2 diabetes...I was in my early 60's but felt like I was in my 80's.

I finally just told my gp I wasn't taking anymore statins and stopped them 2 years ago...I felt better soon after ..but still have sore knees and hips...also my blood sugar has gone back to normal...I'll never again take them...if I had known at the start that they could cause raised blood sugar ...I never would have taken them...if it came to a choice between diabetes and high cholesterol...I know what I would have chosen..

I was on Simvastatin for a couple of years and developed severe pain in my knee and shoulder. My knee was drained 3 times and I was told my knee needed to be replaced. I discontinued the Simvastatin and my ailments went away in only a few days. Today my knee and shoulder are fine and pain free. The odd thing is that my cholesterol level has never gone back up and that has been six years ago.

I'm already a diabetic (type-2) and was put on Pravastatin which lasted one week. During that time I had leg cramps night and day, my urine turned brown and my blood suger was over 200.

After a cardiac cath. ( in which I was told I had a healthy heart and clear coronary arteries) the cardiologist said a little knowledge was a bad thing when I told him of my side effects.

I no longer take Coreg or Pravastatin and don't plan to see that doctor again. My primary doctor is aware of these events. I welcome any comments you may have. Also, I have to be extra careful with the diabetes now.

I have been on Simvastatin, Lipitor and now on Crestor for 8 yrs. I have had memory problems for some time but my biggest problem has been tingling, numb, cold and very painful feet. My cardiologist does not believe it is the statins but when I go off the drugs, I get much better. My primary, who is a former pharmacist, believes it is the statins and has reduce the Crestor from 10mg daily to 5mg 3 days per week. This has kept my LDL down to about 110 but not down to the desired 70. I am good with that because my feet feel much better.

I took Crestor for several years. Two summers ago I developed muscle pain. The Dr. stopped the medication and the pain went away in three weeks. He told me he wanted to try a lower dose and have me take CoQ 10 with it. I was able to tolerate this until the following March when I developed neck pain, inability to turn my head, and inability to lean over and pick up something from the floor.

I stopped the Crestor and the neck pain improved. Over the summer I had muscle pains in my arms and upper thighs that made movement very painful. I felt like I had a bad flu. I had all kinds of studies done, saw two rheumatologists and nothing was diagnosed. Finally they told me they thought it was statin drug related. The muscle pain was so severe I could not even take a bowl out of a cupboard, comb my hair, move my arms without severe pain.

Over the fall I began having joint pain in my knees and fluid build up. The joint pain and muscle pain will get a little better and then worsen again. I cannot sleep well at night. It has been difficult keeping up with my job. I am exhausted much of the time. Still no one seems to be able to help me relieve the symptoms - I have even tried a homeopath. The symptoms have improved since last summer but still are present. It is like living with a chronic condition and the pain causes me to feel depressed. Climbing up and down stairs is very painful. I could go on and on... Any suggestions?

I took statins for a few years with no problems until the muscle cramps started. They were extremely painful and as soon as one cramp eased up another would immediately begin in another area. These bouts of cramps could last from 15-40 minutes. Usually this occurred in my legs but not always. I have had my thumb contort in an impossible position during a cramp. My arm muscles sometimes cramped... but usually it was my feet and legs. There were nights I was in so much pain I considered going to the ER. I spoke to my doctor several times. She ran blood tests and no deficiencies showed up. I tried another statin but the cramps continued. Finally, I told my knee specialist suggested I quit the statins as he was certain they were the root of my problem. After a few weeks the cramps lessened although it took almost a year for the cramps to stop. I still occasionally get some, but I can handle these. Whenever I hear someone speak of muscle cramping that won't go away I always ask if they are on statins.

I am wondering if anyone has had a family/friend on a statin or Lipitor specifically, who developed a cerebral hemorrhage (fatal or non-fatal) which presented as a "stroke" and what the medical folks will sometimes call a "hemorrhagic stroke." I am gathering data. I do not trust the statin drugs but need some hard evidence to present my case. I am a nurse of 30 years, and my gut feeling about these drugs has never been favorable. Now with a family member who took it for 8-10 years and had cerebral hemorrhages - but not a stroke - I am gathering data. I smell a rat and it isn't in the lab.

From package insert Sweden

I have just read the Swedish package insert for Lipitor (as well as for the copy =atorvastatin). I noticed this (my translation).

Warnings and Precautions

Talk to your doctor, pharmacist or nurse before using Lipitor.
Lipitor can be unsuitable for you in the following situations:

if you have previously had a stroke with bleeding in the brain, or have small pockets of fluid in the brain from the previous stroke

if you have kidney problems

if you have hypothyroidism.

if you have had repeated or unexplained muscle pain or muscle problems personally or in the family

if you have a history of muscle problems during treatment with other lipid-lowering drugs (eg other statin or fibrate)

If you regularly drink large amounts of alcohol

if you have or have ever had liver disease

if you are over 70 years

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