a confused or forgetful older senior woman

Q. My husband has taken Zocor to lower cholesterol since he was 48. In 2006, he started to notice problems. His feet became numb and he had trouble writing. He believed that he was less sharp mentally. I could see that his muscle strength was waning too. I excused this as growing older, but he was just in his early fifties.

The problems became more obvious starting in January 2007. Now it’s February 2008 and he’s 55.

He can’t communicate with customers in the business he started 30 years ago. His writing can’t be read even when he tries his best to print.

He has trouble walking. He loses his balance easily. It is very difficult for him to get up when he falls. He has very little body strength and he can’t walk up stairs. He has no feeling in the bottom of his toes.

He has trouble expressing his thoughts and his speech pattern is halting. He has a lot of trouble sleeping.

He’s made numerous trips to his internist and a neurologist. They have recommended we see a dementia psychiatrist. I feel I need to look elsewhere for help–but I don’t know where to go. Could any of this be related to Zocor?

A. We have heard from hundreds of people who have developed memory, nerve or muscle problems while taking statin-type cholesterol-lowering drugs (Lipitor, lovastatin, simvastatin, Zocor, etc). People frequently complain that they have trouble remembering words and names. In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal (2/12/08) a doctor observed, “This drug [Lipitor] makes women stupid.”

We have discussed this issue in great detail with several experts on our radio show. We are sending you a one-hour CD of “The Dark Side of Statins,” an interview with Beatrice Golomb, MD, PhD, and colleagues.

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  1. Km

    My mom has been on zocor, or a generic, for over 10 years. Just recently she was becoming more forgetful than usual, I was attributing it to her age as she is 87. But I was afraid of alzheimer disease starting and was doing some research on the Internet. Came upon the stories of zocor causing dementia so I stopped it. There has been a marked improvement in the last 2 weeks since we stopped this medicine. She had no high cholesterol problem, had been put on it because of having a stent. She was getting so confused and forgetful that I was afraid she would need to go into asst. living or even something more. Her personality was changing and was irritable and angry at times. I see a very big change and improvement there, too.

  2. cj anderson

    To M. Oliver,
    You are not the first one on this blog to mention a link between Swedish heritage and linking dementia to statins. I’m 100% Swedish – all grandparents came to US from Sweden – and I’m taking Zocor. I also have a family history of Alzheimer’s: my mother and her two brothers. When my symptoms started after year or so on Zocor, at about 54 years old, I attributed it to my family history (my mother and uncles were all in their mid to late 80s). Now I’m really wondering about the statin and its link to a Swedish genetic heritage causing early onset dementia.
    Thank you for including that info in your post! I believe you did the right thing and its what I’m going to do. I wish more people would post heritage.
    Thank you.

  3. cj anderson

    I’m researching statins and dementia and although I live in the US, all my grandparents came here from Sweden. I’m finding more and more comments from Swedes or people of Swedish heritage having the side effects you said your friend had when they started taking a statin medication. Thank you for including the fact you are from Sweden! I have found other studies linking certain side effects to people from/of Sweden. It really makes me wonder, and I’m glad I found your post.

  4. M.Oliver

    I see the FDA changed its warnings this week. I can imagine a 130 billion dollar a year business is afraid of class action law suits, because mark my words it will be the biggest of its kind. I took simvastatin for about 3 or 4 years. I am 54 years old and was becoming forgetful at an alarming rate. I developed neuropathy and have had dizziness that felt like my brain was “going black”. My muscles feel weak and I have this sensation that the muscles themselves will just fall off my bones. I have also had numbness around the right side of my mouth.
    I was in excellent health. I now know with out any doubt that the statins are the cause of all this! I cannot tell you how very very angry I am at the makers of these drugs… they have ruined my health, and that is priceless. I am looking for a lawyer!

  5. Val H.

    Have just heard about the side effect of dementia and all the other symptoms, and I have been taking 80mg of Lipitor for 2 years now after having had a triple by-pass. Don’t know what to do for myself, as my body makes too much cholesterol and I most certainly don’t want to have another bout of heart surgery. Also do not want to give myself dementia!!! I have enough trouble remembering things as it is at my age of 66. Am not sure what I should be doing. Val H. Australia.

  6. Doug

    My wife was on Lipitor for about two years, then experienced severe short-term memory loss. We did some research on websites and, after consulting her GP, discontinued the medication in November 2011. There was an immediate improvement in her memory, though she still has memory lapses. Then, on this morning’s news it was reported that the Health Authorities now suspected Lipitor could cause dementia. Too bloody late!

  7. VJT

    Interesting, I had been on statins for years for familial hyper cholesterol and noticed muscle weakness and pain which had commenced after stating statins but was put down to arthritis so NSAID which led to gastric lesions so onto antacids and Vioxx! Blood pressure went up on Vioxx!
    So I decided to stop all other medications because of side effects and finally last year stopped the Lipitor too, obviously when you have a high cholesterol not good but when I told the doctor without statins I felt much better I got a long lecture, but in my mind a shorter active life, without constant pain causing immobility, is preferable to achieved lowered cholesterol with a longer life of pain and inability to move. Interestingly the doctor refused to accept Lipitor could cause muscle weakness and pain.

  8. Linda

    My 73 year old boyfriend has been on Lipitor for 10 years. His cholesterol and triglycerides were always high and he is now on Tricor and Lipitor.
    For the past 3 years he has bee showing signs of dementia. He has chronic joint and muscle pain.

    This man ran several business and owns numerous rental properties that he managed himself, now he can barely write a check for form a consecutive thought. Does anyone know where I can get the CD “the dark side of Statins?

    He has had an MRI and all kinds of blood work done and everything came out negative. I’m watching a young 73 year old mentally deteriorate before my eyes and I can’t get anyone to listen.

  9. joyce

    So much pushing of cholesterol lowering drugs and at such astronomical profits!
    My father started taking Zocor and within a year our family started noticing loss of memory. It got worse and he started getting pain in his legs, he was diagnosed with gout. In the next year we saw him go downhill and he was hospitalized for congestive heart failure.
    Our family couldn’t figure it out. He was healthy, though had bad eating habits. He still had good muscle tone, was very active, and walked erect and we had great conversations. My sister and I started asking question only to discover that his doctor had been prescribing statins to lower his cholesterol about a year prior to our noticing his sudden change in health.
    We know in our hearts that the statins caused this. We started researching the side effects of statins ourselves and were shocked to find out we we not the only ones to draw this conclusion. Finally when Dad went in for open heart surgery to replace a mitral valve to help with congestive heart failure (the statins didn’t prevent congestive heart failure) We insisted that Dad not go back on the statins.
    My sister and I had to fight his doctors and my Mother who believes doctors are always right.
    Since then my Dad’s memory has come back and he is able to walk much better. The doctors will tell you that the statins don’t cause all these symptoms. But we know the truth. I feel we saved my Dad’s life by insisting he stay off the statins. Our only worry now is that my mother will allow him to go back on as to this day she still does not agree. She seems to listen to the pharmaceutical companies and the doctors instead of the facts.
    By the way, for any readers out there – my father is 3/4 Swedish and I have another suspicion that this heritage might play a role in what drugs do and don’t work. He is from a family of 7 the only ones still living are non-smokers. All the smokers died by age 60 of lung cancer. I also lost one cousin at age 42 to lung cancer (smoker) and another is age 44 and not given much longer. My only surviving uncle is the oldest of the 7 (just turned 80) is the only one who did not smoke or take statins. Makes ya think, doesn’t it?

  10. Marie

    It’s very interesting and sad to read all these stories about statins.
    I have never taken any myself but 3 people close to me did.
    That made me look for unbiased information in books and on the Internet.
    The best thing you can do for yourself and the people around you is to educate yourself when it comes to diseases and medicines.
    A close friend in his seventies took Zocor for many years.
    He also had a lot of other medications.
    Now, looking back, I am sure that one medication led to another.
    It seems as if it’s very hard for nurses and doctors to realise that people actually can suffer from side effects – even with a low dose of medication.
    Side effects are much more common than what is discribed as the system of reporting is not good enough.
    I live in Sweden but the situation is the same here as in the U.S.
    People trust their doctors, which I think they should not do.
    They should look for unbiased information from many different sources and then make up their own mind.
    For instance – are you sure that it’s the high cholesterol that will cause you heart problems?
    The stories here are very similar to what happened to a close friend om mine.
    He was in his early seventies.
    For years he had problems with one thing after the other but then I had not discovered what I know today — and I had no Internet.
    Many years ago he suffered a small heart attack and was put on many different medications. One of which was Zocor.
    He started to have pains, very sharp ones.
    He would stop in his walk and scream.
    He was sent to a reumatologist who came to the conclusion that it was reumatism (RA). I don´t know if this is the correct word in English.
    Then a few more medicines were added to his list: NSAID:s, Prednisolone and Imuran.
    Some time later he was told that he had gout and was prescribed Allopurinol for that.
    His gout could have been caused by Zocor or the water pills!
    Many years later he was still on it and I wrote to the doctor and wondered why as he had not had gout for years.
    His doctor wrote that what I said could be true but if he should stop with Allopurinol then the gout would almost certainly return and because of that he felt it was better if he continued!
    I think that was a terrible advice considering what was happening to my friend’s health.
    Then he had to take Metformin to prevent Diabetes 2 as he had put on some weigth (probably because of the cortisone).
    He also had several diuretics – Furosemide and Spironolactone.
    This went on and on.
    He used to be a news paper printer and had a very physical job, lots of muscles and he was in very good shape for his age.
    Then little by little he started to have problems with numbness, pain and weakness in his hands, pains in shoulders and legs.
    He would discribe it as if he had an iron rod right through his hips and that it felt like a welding torch ? in his legs.
    At this point he could still use his head, but he became more and more irritated and that made our relationship problematic.
    He complained that he could not sleep.
    I noticed that he had problems to learn new things. This man who had such a fantastic memory. I used to wonder why.
    He also complained that he could not read my handwriting. He never had problems before.
    He had stomach ulcers. Not surprising with all these medications including NSAID:s (non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs).
    Then we did not see each other for about a year.
    I knew that he had problems with a wound on his foot that would not heal.
    He had to visit a special nurse every third day and also take antibiotics.
    He lost a lot of weight.
    As I knew that he made these visits every third day – and his doctor was there as well- I took for granted that he was well cared for.
    Later I realised that was not the case.
    He had to go to hospital because of his foot. This was at the end of 2004.
    I phoned him when he was back home and then two days later, but there was no reply.
    I phoned the clinic where he had been and asked if by any chance he was there again and so it was.
    The health clinic had readmitted him as he appeard to be confused.
    I told the nurse that they must not give him any more drugs, but look through those he had to see if something could be reduced – or stopped all together. In order to see if his mind would be clearer.
    I sent a letter explaining his situation the next day.
    Unfortunately, they added another medication – Risperdal, a neuroleptic
    (psychotropic drug). I was disgusted.
    I knew what kind of medication it was because my 95 year old father had been drugged with this type of medication when he stayed for one week in an old people`s home.
    I sent a letter to the doctor. Told him about the things I had found out about Zocor and also about the antibiotic that my friend had received during the summer of 2004 – Ciprofloxacin.
    He had several medications that could cause memory problems and confusion.
    No-one cared.
    He, himself, was too weak to protest.
    By now he had no muscles left, he was very irritated, he had problems to swallow, didn´t have appetite, could not feel the taste of the food.
    He returned home in very bad condition.
    The pains continued.
    He also had ringing noise in his ears etc.
    It just went on and on.
    The story is too long to tell.
    He passed away at an old people’s home at the age of 74 during spring 2007.
    I’ll never forget his suffering.
    I read a lot of books – and still do.
    I found them on the Internet.
    Here are some:
    The Cholesterol Myths (Uffe Ravnskov)
    The Great Cholesterol Con (Antony Colpo)
    Book with the same title (Malcolm Kendrick)
    Lipitor – thief of memory (Duane Graveline)
    Also visit “Stopped our statins” on Google. There`s an interesting article from The Weston Price Foundation under “print articles”.
    Overdosed America (John Abramson)
    Malignant Medical Myths (Joel F. Kauffman)
    The truth about the drug companies (Marcia Angell)
    Powerful Medicines, the benefits, risks and costs of prescription drugs (Jerry Avorn)
    Death by prescription (Ray D. Strand)
    Bitter Pills (Stephen Fried), about quinolone antibiotics for instance Levaquin. Cipro etc.
    (I donated my copy to the hospital where my friend stayed. I would be surprised if anyone there has read it!)
    The Antidepressant Fact Book, Toxic Psychiatry and Your Drug May Be Your Problem (Peter R. Breggin)
    Hoping that these books and webb sites can inspire you not to swallow every medication that your doctor suggests.
    It´s your body and you are the best person to judge how you feel!

  11. Karin P.

    A doctor/researcher working for the World Health Organization (WHO) recently reported evidence suggesting that some deaths that were wrongly being attributed to Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS) may, in fact, have been caused by STATINS.

  12. mary ann stobnicki

    I took Lipitor for years with no side effects. I asked for a generic and was givin simvastatin; now I have been having a problem with my butt. It seems to be in a joint in my butt. I can’t sit very long without being in pain. Could this be related to the simvastatin? Thank you for your response.

  13. mike

    All of this is confusing! With all the controversy concerning published medical articles that have an inherit bias towards perpetuating the Big Pharma agenda, why does the empirical data, proven over time, remain unrecognized? Statins are extremely overprescribed, and at best only represent control of one dimension of a complexity, artheriosclerosis. Cholesterol is vital for many functions, including neurological. Reducing cholesterol has side-effects, the hepatic process through which statins work inhibit important antioxidants, like CoEnzyme 10, and there are a great deal of effects that have been discovered away from experimental control over the past 20 years.
    At the least, black box labels should be required for each and every statin. There are many options to help reduce coronary artery disease. I hope that Joe and Terry do more shows that help listeners dev. more analysis and insight as to what has occured regarding the information/misinformation involved with pharmaceutical marketing.

  14. Cathie L.

    I have tried repeatedly to get my elderly father to quit taking statin drugs. His doctor insists they are safe. He is very weak, especially in the lower extremities. This is a man who continued to walk, exercise and swim well into his 80’s… I wish I could get him to listen, but he is of the generation that apparently believes doctors are never wrong…

  15. cspeters

    A book “Lipitor – Thief of Memory” by D. Graveline M.D., former astronuat, flight surgeon and practicing fm. phys. describes episodes of Transient Global Amnesia while on statins. It is written for both lay and professionals. If you have questions in this area of side effects of statins it is well worth reading.

  16. Ginger

    I have diabetes, but it is well under control. I have taken Mevacor for years, but was recently switched because of my complaint of muscle soreness. I have Fibromyalgia also and was in a lot of pain all of the time. They switched my medication to Pravastatin, which is better for my muscle soreness.
    About a year ago I noticed a feeling in the bottom of my feet that made things extra sensitive. Since then it is becoming numb and it scares me to death.
    The doctor said it was due to my diabetes, but as I said it is under control. I take insulin and medication and my A1c is around 6.3. Could it be the cholestrerol medication?

  17. Barbara

    Around Thanksgiving 2007, I began taking a statin drug for lowering cholesterol. By the end of the first week, I had multiple flu-like symptoms minus the fever. I was weak and miserable. After stopping the drug at the end of the week, I immediately felt better within a day.
    My uncle passed away on 2/28/08 and we strongly believe it was due to a change in his meds — a change to a statin prescription in November 2007. He was 77 years old and had been a strong man all his life — a hard worker. After the statin was prescribed, he developed weakness and difficulty breathing, which lead to congestive heart failure. He withered away very quickly and we truly believe the statins are responsible.

  18. Carole E. W.

    I took Lipitor for a little over a year and experienced short-term memory loss. My doctor claimed that Lipitor did not cause memory loss. I did continue to take Lipitor, but finally stopped taking it during June 2007 as my situation worsened. After I stopped, I did realize some memory improvement.

  19. Joseph Tomasello

    I take Lipitor 40 Gr. (4 years)
    Same exact symptoms:
    Bottoms of feet numb
    Trouble writing
    Less sharp mentally
    Muscles weakness

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