Q. I was on Lipitor for a number of years and have severe muscle and nerve damage to the extent that I am in a power wheelchair. Do you think Lipitor could be to blame?

A. Statin-type cholesterol-lowering drugs such as Crestor (rosuvastatin), Lipitor (atorvastatin), Mevacor (lovastatin) and Zocor (simvastatin) are linked to muscle pain, weakness and nerve damage. Most physicians have assumed that muscle problems are an extremely rare side effect. Many readers have experienced this problem, however. Here is one example:

“I’ve been taking Lipitor for years. Two months ago I stopped, since I suspected it was responsible for the major pain and weakness I am experiencing in the muscles of my arms, shoulders, hands and feet. I felt like a lump of spasmodic pain with extreme fatigue and brain fog.

“My doctors did not think Lipitor was the cause. Stopping the Lipitor banished the brain fog so I can think and remember things again. I am still plagued with pain, muscle spasms and weakness.”

New research (New England Journal of Medicine, online, July 23, 2008) suggests that some people are highly susceptible to muscle-related complications from high-dose statins. This genetic vulnerability may affect up to one-fourth of the population. Others are unlikely to experience such problems.

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  1. Bill

    Conspiracy theories sure are fun, aren’t they? The subject is Statins, but people on this forum have described the same problems with lisinopril, lopid and other non-statin drugs, even ones that are not absorbed systemically like Zetia. I once had a lady who swore that all cholesterol medication made her terribly nauseated, so I actually prescribed a placebo for her to treat cholesterol. After 2 weeks, she couldn’t take it any more because of the severe GI side effects just like the others. I confessed to her that I had given her a “sugar pill” to see how it would affect her. She got her feathers ruffled, and started seeing my partner instead. Unfortunately, a month after I talked with her, she had a massive stroke and died. Maybe the statin would’ve helped, but she was determined she couldn’t take it. She had lived a long time, some 76 years, a full life, and we’re all going to die at some point.

  2. AD

    Hi Terry, yes noted with thanks. I’m due to see my doctor in 2 days. Just to note I feel better since but will update post my appointment. Hoping she will allow me to manage the natural way.

  3. AD

    I’m a 32 year old male. Just 6 weeks ago I suffered a minor heart attack. The ‘disease’ runs in the family. I have had one stent put in.

    I have been subscribed 80mg Statins and I know they are messing me up within the first 6 weeks. Sore legs, cant sleep hardly at all, depression and foggy memory. F**k That.

    Since my procedure I have since stopped smoking, I’m doing more exercise, brushing my teeth night and day and generally eating less processed foods. Also not stressing over work any more either. After just a days research I can see that Statins will most likely kill me.

    I have decided to stop the Statins. 90% sure I’m making the right decision. Wish me luck!

    • Terry Graedon

      Your decision might be premature. Statins do have value for people with heart disease. Since you’ve had a heart attack–and at a tender age–you are vulnerable to more heart trouble. If the side effects of the statin you are taking are a problem, please talk with your doctor. You are on a high dose. The physician might be able to lower the dose or switch to a different statin medication to relieve the side effects. But don’t jump to throw the baby out with the bathwater. You just might be one of the people for whom statins provide a real benefit.

  4. Diana
    Waterloo Ontario

    At my Doctor’s insistence I took a statin to lower my cholesterol. Please note that my cholesterol levels were only 2 points above average. As soon as I started on this regime I started experiencing unbearable muscle pain in my upper legs and RLS. I informed my Doctor of these symptoms and we decided to lower my intake of these statins from once a day to once every three days. This did nothing to abate my symptoms. I decided on my own to stop taking the statins and within 8 weeks, both my muscle pain and restless leg syndrome had disappeared. Not sure how this will affect my cholesterol levels, but frankly I will gladly trade higher cholesterol levels for no pain and better sleep.

  5. RM

    I was on gemfibrosil for almost a month, it got the point finally where I could not even pick up a pitcher of water with my right hand and my left wrist felt as if I had sprained it.
    Off of them for 3 days now and am back to feeling good, hopefully no permanent damage has been done… never again.

  6. EE

    Doctor put me on a low dosage statin a few weeks ago. I have arthritis, so I thought the soreness was that. I also recently stopped menopause hot flashes so I thought they had returned, only worse than ever before.
    While on vacation (3rd week of statin), muscle soreness became extreme and I almost stopped being able to pee, leg swelling, blurred vision, inability to concentrate, couldn’t sleep at night or stay awake by day. Husband told me to stop the medicine. Although not all the muscle pain is gone, there was immediate relief within 24 hours.
    I know the doctor would want to try another, so I waited until school started and took my test results in to the nurse. She looked at them and said they were actually in high normal range which she would have thought would have just been watched, not medicated. She was very concerned when she heard my symptoms and said in addition to stopping the medicine, my husband should have taken me to the emergency room because it sounded to her like it was affecting my kidneys.
    She was shocked to find out I had been put on a statin when I had had a very serious kidney infection as a kid as even though urine tests have never shown problems, because that might make me extra sensitive to any extra stress on the kidneys. She also noticed I was on thyroid supplements and asked if that test had changed. It had, from middle of normal to just barely inside normal. She told me I should ask the doctor about raising my thyroid dose a little as that can affect cholesterol.
    My brother, just a few years older than me, has dutifully taken every medicine prescribed, and they keep increasing, and has become severely obese, writes me about falls, losing days, and is in early retirement. My husband has been on statins for years, believes his increasing pains are arthritis (but oddly doesn’t have the joint swelling and redness my arthritis has), has ED, has developed diabetes, has numbness in his fingers and believes his health problems are due to Agent Orange in VietNam. I’m beginning to wonder if both their problems are due to prescription meds, especially statins.
    The doctor had told me she wanted to be careful of my cholesterol because of heart disease and strokes in my family, but those didn’t happen until the family members were in their eighties or nineties. I cannot see being miserable for the next 30 or 40 years to prevent a stroke or heart attack then. In fact since exercise is supposed to keep you healthier, I think it would be counterproductive to be unable to be active due to pain and weakness for the next 30 years.

  7. Moorehead Z. Y.

    I’d been on Lestric (Lovastatin) for six months. It gave me muscle pain on my left back. After seeing another Dr., Lipitor has been prescribed for me. I feel okay now without side effects.

  8. I.A

    My mother has been on Lipitor for the last 8 years. She is in wheelchair now, and after seeing many doctors in Charlotte, none of them has a clue about what she has.
    I started doing some research over the internet and I found out that what my mother has is probably coming from the Lipitor. In less that two years she went from being perfectly well to not be able to walk.
    It’s not fair what medicine can do to you. You see the advertising on the TV.
    Is the US the only country where drugs are advertised on TV?

  9. jws

    Two years I was put on Satins for cholesterol after I had a stent implant. After several months I got all the side effect described for Satins. I had to stop the medication due to the excessive pain and cramps in my legs. A short time latter while bending, I tore the meniscus in my left leg. I had an arthroscopic operation and a year later it has not healed. What I did not know I was put back on a Satin under a different name by a different doctor, when the pain started up again I discontinued the medication.
    A few weeks later I tore the miniscus in my right knee. I am scheduled to see a Surgeon. I was in good physical condition and very active before all this medication now I have constant pain and can hardly walk.

  10. GB

    Have been on several different statins. Each one caused muscle pain and soreness. Finally Provastatin was prescribed and I also started taking 150mgs of CoQ10 everyday. Things seemed fine. I thought I had the statin pain beat. 2 months ago I started getting horrible pains in hips, legs, feet, and other areas. I just told my Dr. today (he is convinced it is the arthritis), but agreed to take me off the medicine for 1 month to see if the pain goes away. It is the worst pain I have ever had. On a scale of 1-10 its a 20. I hope stopping it for a while proves it is the drug. Its all about quality of life. I never shuffled in my life, but I do now.

  11. MDiggs

    I started Lipitor over a month ago, it caused horrible hot flashes n dizzy spells so my Dr. suggested Crestor..at first I didn’t think I noticed anything…I was becoming very tired and my body was sore..I thought maybe I was pregnant because I have never felt so tired or sore, so my O.B. did a blood test which came back negative…symptoms became worse, to the point I was falling asleep by 8 at night and it was affecting my family..
    I am a night owl and this was not normal for me..I could barely make it from bed to the couch in the morning my eyes were burning so bad!! Not to mention I was feeling so sore I was taking pain meds to function. I came across a health story on Yahoo that brought the fatigue to my attention, caused by statins. I stopped the meds, I am slowly starting to feel better. I want my life back. I even became depressed. I read a study that said that a large number of people on statins were also taking antidepressants caused by their statins. I have never needed an antidepressant before and I will not take one now so that I can take a pill that makes me feel horrible.. I thought the point was to get healthy..

  12. KI

    What tests can be done to confirm that a statin drug is the cause of certain symptoms? My husband was taken off his statin drug after he rapidly developed muscle pain, deterioration and weakness. There were other symptoms, too, many of which have been described on this website. I took him to another doctor who pretty much dismissed it as that and tried to suggest it was diabetes.
    His diabetes is controlled now and was controlled at the time this all began in late November 2008. I’m in the process of finding another doctor, one who will take this seriously. He is on a walker now and has lost the ability to work or care for himself. I cannot believe that doctors will sit there and turn a blind eye to what is happening. Statin drugs are terribly dangerous, even more so than the drug companies and doctors realize. I am beginning to see this now. I know he needs specialized testing, but none of the doctors are recommending any.

  13. A. Dechaine

    I’ve been taking a statin drug for over a year now. I started with Lipitor but just recently switched to a generic. When I started taking Lipitor, I’d read about the side affects and I followed the advice given by taking COQ10 to prevent muscle problems. It has been effective so far.

  14. A.B.

    I began taking a statin drug approx. 2 years ago and only took for about 4 months. Although I have had it for most of my life (70 years) I began to notice a great increase in the symptoms of Restless Leg Syndrome. After studying about the effect of statin cholesterol drugs, I am convinced that I have permanent nerve damage caused by the drug and that is the reason for the increased RLS.

  15. D. W.

    My mother was on Lipitor for for about 3 years. She is now 70 yrs old and has been a diabetic for at least the last 20 years. About a year and a half ago she started experiencing burning, cramping, and pain in her legs, feet and hands. She also was experiencing acid reflux, stomach pain, and malais. Her doctor suggested that the pain and burning was related to periphial neuropathy caused by the diabetes. He prescribed panteloc(?) and nexium for the gastric problems.
    Later she was experiencing weakness in the legs and arms and extreme fatigue. Again the doctor blamed the diabetes. Eventually we convinced the doctor to send her to a neurologist. This past June, she was diagnosed her with a condition called Lambert Eaton Myasthenia Syndrome (LEMS),an extremely rare condition that is similar to ALS. My mother is currently in a wheelchair and is largely defendant on others for care.
    Her quality of life has declined substantially. Having researched Lipitor on the internet I have come across a number of articles that describe the risks associated with the drug. Alarmingly most of them describe symptoms that my mother has experienced, including fatigue, muscle weakness, neuropathy, etc. I am now wondering if either she has been misdiagnosed or if there is some link between Lipitor and LEMS. We have an appointment with the neurologist in January. We intend to discuss with the neurologist whether their could be a link between my mothers condition and her prolonged use of Lipitor. Will keep you posted.

  16. MT

    I was on Lipitor for about one year when i had muscular spasms so severe i thought that i was o dying. I reported this experience to my
    doctor who immediately took a blood test. He called me the next morning and told me to stop taking the Lipitor. The blood test revealed that my muscle enzymes, that should normally be in the range of 250, was in the 5000 range. It has been almost 2 years since i stopped taking the Lipitor.
    I have continued to experience unbelievable muscle cramping spasms through out my entire body. My jaw has locked shut while eating and the joints in my hands have turned backward on occasions. I now am experiencing slurred speech and difficulty swallowing at times. My doctor tells me he does not know what it is and specialist that i have seen say the same thing.
    I believe without a doubt that these terrible experiences are a direct result of the damage to my muscular system as a result of taking the Lipitor. I am seeking the help of a holistic physician who can hopefully reverse the damaged created by consuming this drug. The truth is the doctor’s who prescribe these statins are supporting the Pharmaceutical Companies, and truly don’t understand the extent of the damage that can be incurred as a result of taking this drug.

  17. BC

    In August of 2001, I had about 4 points above “normal” cholesterol. My doctor thought I should try Lipitor. I had high BP the year before and was on meds. I also have had fibromyalgia since childhood. I took 2 pills and the pain began. On the 4th day, I woke up and the pain was unbelievable and I could not stand without help.
    I called my doctor and stopped the pills. For the first 2 years I lived in constant pain and was in a wheel chair a lot. I could not go anywhere if I had to walk more than a few steps. I could not step up a curb and had to lift my legs to get into a car. I sat in a dining table chair with arms because I had to use all of my upper body strength to lift myself up.
    My legs barely worked and wouldn’t bend. My arms were also weak and in pain and sometimes I couldn’t dress myself. I cried with pain every night. I was sent to 3 different specialists, had 2 muscle biopsies and MANY tests, but nothing was discovered. Not one doctor would say it was Lipitor. I constantly brought it up, but they would not write that down. They kept telling me that it must be the fibromyalgia.
    Why should a medication be allowed to do that to people? I was 55 at the time and I am still struggling with muscle weakness and pain, although nothing like in the beginning. It’s just been the past couple of years that I have been able to walk up several stairs, however, I am still in pain. Sorry to rant but I’ve not had a forum to do this before. I haven’t lived a normal life for 7 years.

  18. gary

    I took zocor for years, then took Crestor for a few months. During the Crestor time I took Lisenpril. My muscles became weak. I could/can not walk over 500 steps; have to stop & rest. I stopped taking everything 8/11/08. My muscle weakness has not improved. Any ideas to try?

  19. w.c.

    I have not experienced muscle weakness while taking 10 mg. Lipitor but have become very depressed. I do not know if Lipitor is the culprit or not but will quit taking it for a few weeks and see if that was the problem.

  20. robin

    If you are taking any one of the statin drugs, please do yourself a favor and read Sherry Roger’s “The Cholesterol Hoax.” Statins are the number 1 selling drug in the world. They represent huge profits for the Big Pharma’s. Cholesterol is an insignificant marker for heart disease. Inflammation is the key not your cholesterol reading. Statins lower the LDL but do NOT raise the HDL. If you are going to pay attention to your cholesterol then you need to be looking at raising your HDL and this cannot be done with statins drugs.

  21. Wyatt N.

    I had switched to taking the generic statin, Simvastatin, because I didn’t like paying the high price of Lipitor. After a few months of that, I had gained weight and had to quit running, not able to move beyond a shuffle. I had horrible muscle pains in my back and chest pains, that led to tests for heart problems. I quit taking statins, and feel healthy and young again and can run well.

  22. Cheryl K.

    I have been on Lipitor for about four years. I’ve noticed increased problems with balance and “brain fog”. I stopped taking Liptor about 10 days ago and started taking slow-release Niacin instead. I take a baby aspirin a half hour before taking the Niacin to reduce the flush. I have not found the flush to be worth mentioning.
    I was told by a Mayo Clinic physician to start with 500 mg for a month and then increase to 1000 mg, taken at bedtime. I plan to get my blood tested in three months to see the effects. I am very happy to be off the Lipitor and feel that my imbalance has improved but it is not completely gone.

  23. ECC

    I had the same problem with Lopid after taking it for about 3 months. Muscle weakness and tiredness were so bad I couldn’t life a package of toilet paper off the shelf in the grocery store. Fortunately, I had an appointment scheduled with my doctor in a few days, and she said to stop taking the Lopid immediately as the benefit from the Lopid did not match the resultant muscle damage that could occur. Within about 2 weeks, I was pretty much back to normal. I refuse to take any statins after that experience.

  24. PM

    I have been on Lipitor for many years and it has done a tremendous job for my ldl. My dad has had two heart attacks and also by-pass sugery. My mom is type II diabetic. I take Lipitor not just to lower my ldl but do ultimately lower my risk of heart disease. I have had absolutely no muscle pains or weakness and no adverse side effects. I know Lipitor may not be perfect for everyone, but my doctor says it is still the best medicine to prevent heart disease.

  25. fbl

    I had a similar reaction to Lisinopril, a blood pressure medication. After 21 days I stopped it but the pain and weakness did not go away.
    Acupuncture helped immediately to get rid of the pain but the weakness has taken longer. First thing in the morning my legs are still a bit weak but I’m almost back to normal.

  26. Carolyn

    I tried 3 of the cholesterol lowering drugs, lipitor, zocor, and zetia–and had ill effects from all–from muscle pain, & weakness, to fatigue and just general malaise. Finally gave up trying to lower cholesterol by feeling rotten. The one success is with Niacin, which I continue to take. The “hot flashes” aren’t that bothersome, and infrequent anymore.

  27. GT

    I have been on all the Statin Medication and had the same problems, Muscle weakness, extreme pain and nerve damage caused by these Medications.

  28. anne

    I was on Lipitor for a short while only but woke one morning with rather large welts all over my body. If that is what Liptor did to the outside of my body, what was it doing to the inside of my body?

  29. DB

    My 74 yr mother has been taking Lipitor for approx. 8 yrs, and has complained of muscle weakness,general malaise,as noted by others. Her Dr. said which is worse, possible death from heart attack or just being in a wheelchair? She is now in an assisted living facility, unable to walk. I finally convinced her to change Dr. and stop taking the Lipitor. I believe it is irreversible.

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