Statin pills and a warning sign

Q. I’ve been on simvastatin (80 mg) for several years. I’ve had serious problems with leg cramps and now my tendons are affected from my toes to my knees. Could the medication be responsible?

A. The FDA has just issued a warning about simvastatin (Zocor). The agency is concerned about muscle damage linked to high doses (80 mg) of this cholesterol-lowering medicine. Doctors are not supposed to prescribe this dose to new patients. Only people who have not experienced muscle problems after taking it for a year should continue on the 80 mg dose.

Even lower doses may cause simvastatin side effects. One reader shared his story:

“I was started on simvastatin 20 mg, and by the third week I was in a lot of pain. My triceps and biceps hurt the worst, as though someone was ripping the muscles apart. I also had pain in my hips, legs and shoulders.”I stopped the simvastatin, but my blood tests showed elevated CPK (muscle breakdown) and decreased GFR (kidney functioning). Six months later, the labs show my GFR is normal, but my CPK is still mildly elevated. When I try to exercise, my muscles get sore quickly and the soreness lasts longer.”

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  1. Daniela

    I had been on 10 mg. Zocor for preventive purposes only. All my Cholesterol levels were within normal limits. During that time, I had no side effects.
    However, approximately three or four months ago, I began having leg aches, worse at night. I was told I had tight calf muscles and I should do specific exercises for this. The muscle aches still continued, causing sleepless nights. I massaged them, and took Tylenol (for sleep) . Eventually, I began taking Magnesium at breakfast and bedtime. Things initially improved, but eventually, the aches returned, this time worse. I discontinued the Zocor and the next day, my legs were not aching, and have not ached since. I informed my doctor of this, thinking he might put me on another statin, but he said, “I’m not worried about your cholesterol- you have no heart disease”. I’m still ache-free and enjoying restful nights. I continue to take the Magnesium as I also take diuretics.

  2. Eric

    I was taking 40 mg of simvastatin. Within in 2 weeks and I was not taking it everyday, I started experiencing fever, tiredness, soreness and numbness in my arms while I slept. I have stop taking it now.

  3. Janet
    St. Louis

    I went on Simvastatin a couple of years ago – 20mg…my LDL was 160 and at the time was considered borderline. I took the drug for 4 months and went in for a blood test. My LDL was reduced to 75. My doctor was suspicious of muscle aches and other side effects of the drug but I had none in four months nor the rest of the year. The following year I went in for my annual, and my LDL was at 110. I was always in pretty good shape–working out, good diet,lots of exercise. So this year I went in for my annual, and my LDL was reduced to 58!!!! The only thing I changed this year was that I went off of coffee and also went off of all sweetness. I was using lots of Stevia. The Stevia I used was not pure Stevia. There was an additive in the product which, when researching, found out that it stayed in one’s system. It was cumulative and could be harmful so I stopped Stevia and any other type of artificial sweetener. I started using honey for hot and cold tea and maple syrup on hot cereals. Coffee was getting in the way of digesting my food. Don’t know if that was the cause for the decrease in my LDL. I have had no leg cramps, headaches, etc., associated with a Statin.

    My doctor asked me this time if I had any problems with muscle aches, etc., and I said no. He suggested I go off Simvastatin for 4 months and take another blood test. I decided to stay on the Statin for now, may do so for the rest of the year until my next checkup and see what happens in the interim, like any changes in muscles, etc. If LDL stays pretty low I may go off of Statin next year and see what happens.

  4. joe

    I have been taking simvastatin for about 6 months now and am very weak and have trouble walking and functioning and am only on 20 mg also feeling very weak and tired.

  5. june H

    I am on symvastatine because I have had mini strokes in the past.
    I am nearly 82 .I am up at 5/30 because I twist & turn all night long .I would love to have a good nights sleep.I also take a cramp pill,but am now wondering if cramp was a result of taking the cholesterol tablet.

    I will contact my Doctor & see if I can take the cholesterol pill in the morning instead.

  6. marilyn

    I was started on 80 mg of lipitor and plavix after seeing a stroke specialist this past summer. After two months, all I wanted to do was sleep. I also took CoQ10 each day with the statins. I went off of statins after calling my doctor and he said “don’t think it’s the medicine but go off for a week to see for sure.” I didn’t contact him for three weeks and he said take 20 mg for week and then go back to the 80 mg. I told him I would try the 20 but was scared of anything higher. It was ok with 20 for two weeks (LDL was 55) and then flu-like symptoms started with back, neck, and chest aches along with extreme weakness and tiredness. After 5 days of thinking it was the flu, I stopped the statins and it took two more weeks before relief came. I expect I will gradually feel better and better as I’ve always had a lot of energy and exercised daily!! NO MORE STATINS… There’s something to be said for “quality of life”.

  7. Evie
    Massena, NY

    Sixteen years ago my cholesterol was 300 and after taking Zocor I continued to have l69. Then my new Dr. said my cholesterol had risen to 200 and changed my med to Lipitor which caused me stomach problems. I stopped meds for four months and now that I am back on statins I have shoulder stiffness, hip and leg pains and stomach problems again. After reading this section I am determined to quit statins altogether.

    • Philip

      ‘Quality of life’- You’re the best one to judge if any health benefits are worth a decrease in life quality. I think you’ve done the right thing by discontinuing the statins.

  8. Linda
    New York

    Is insomnia a problem with simvastatin??

  9. Mary

    I have taken Simvastatin 20 mg for last 3 years. I started feeling pain on top of my feet which led to severe muscle spasms/ cramps lasting for several minutes. I had to lie down as I was sweating profusely and passing out if I got up. Recently I have attended a Neurologist for increased pain in both feet , tingling/ pins & needles in both hands and feet. My left big toe is swollen and becomes very red and then turn white. My neurologist advised me terminating Statins for one complete month. I had been on and off them over past 3 years as something kept telling me they were the culprit. However my GP encouraged me increase from 10 mg to 20 mg as my LDL cholesterol was over 8. I am definitely going off them for good as I have noticed breathing difficulties and extreme fatigue even with Coq10 supplementation. At times my head is spinning and I am totally exhausted after any long walk or exercise class which I used to tolerate very well.

  10. Sue
    North Carolina

    My husband has been on Simvastatin for years. He coughs all the time he is awake. It is very nerve-wracking but don’t know what to do. Has anyone else had this problem?

  11. Sue
    North Carolina

    My husband has been taking siva stating for years. He coughs all the time that he is awake. When he gets on the phone it gets worse. He has had this cough for several years and it is very nerve-wracking. Does anyone else have this problem.

  12. Paul

    After two years of Simvastatin I developed great pressure of the ears and several months later vertigo and then tinnitus. Are there others with a similar result etc?

    • Sue

      Sorry spell check changed it. Simvastation.

  13. Barry

    I have been on Simvastatin for almost two weeks. Waking up in the middle of the night with calf cramps, dry mouth, feeling bloated, nose blocked at night. My cl level was just under 200 and I am very active. I am stopping the Simvastatin now and not taking it again. Age 65. It is all about money for the drug company.

  14. Jeanette

    I was put on Simvastatin after having a heart attack. I have been in so much pain over the last 4 years I went from being an active Mom of 5 to a crippled old lady that walks with a cane. The joint and muscle pain is excruciating!!! After 4 years , and many trips to physical therapy, my Doctor has finally decided it could be the meds that’s causing my pain. 4 years lost to horrible pain and suffering!! The damage is done and as many others the pain continues. Someone should be held responsible. If anyone out there considers a lawsuit I’m in!!!!!

  15. Ed

    I can’ remember when i was put on semvastatins, but i was put on blood pressure meds in the early 80’s. I may have been put on this med back then in low dosages for a prevenative disease due to family history of heart problems which I told them.
    I am now 69 years old and quit my statin intake 3 months ago against my doctors wishes, she went along with me though as i said I never had a high cholesterol level and my hdl to ldl was fine all these years. I studied why my life went down hill so fast the last 3 year to almost an invalid.
    Due To my problems I thought I had nerve damage due to Myasthemia Gravis. I had no energy, no metabolism whatsoever, body cramps, bloating, overweight 270#, muscle degeneration to the extreme. I am afraid I will get a heart attack just trying to get out of bed, I feel like 600#.
    I found CO Q-10 and studied it. I am now on a 1000-1200 cal diet high in fiber and vitamins. I pray that I can stick this out for a couple of months to find results. Ed

  16. Ginger
    dumfries and galloway

    I am reading this because that I am so worried.Frankly,I have never felt so rotten in all my life.Ihave been on a 20mg dose of Simvastatin for a number of years and have had similar problems as those people on this site.The latest problem was that I had terrible pains in my back and ended up not being able to walk at all, for a week.This is now three weeks later and I still have pains in my back and legs and arms.I also recently had to be sent to hospital with quite severe breathing problems.My stomach is so sore and bloated and I cant get any proper sleep.I am seriously considering stopping these awful tablets.

  17. Connie

    In 1998 I started taking statins. Immediately started having leg cramps terrible at night. Told Dr and she started trying another and another and another. When I started taking Zetia my cholesterol count got better but not satisfying the Dr. so she put me on Vytorin. That’s when everything went wrong.

    Up until now all the statins caused some problem of some kind. On Vytorin I started dropping things, couldn’t open a jar, equilibrium was off and much more. Years up to statins I owned and operated my own business for 45+ years, I walked 2 miles a day…7 days a week. It got so I couldn’t walk to the mailbox without pain in my thighs. I couldn’t bowl anymore as I feared I would fall AGAIN. I refused to take anything and tried to change my diet.

    In 2006 I moved to FL (retired) New Dr. tried to put me on statins. I refused and explained why. Her comment….” Well, at your age (68 ) we won’t worry about it and it isn’t that high anyway!!!” Why are they pushing statins on us???

    Since then I have had a pacemaker put in… Afib, Problems with my eyes, macular hole, cataracts, problems with balance, using a walker. My toes won’t bend, I can’t stand on my tippy toes. One foot has shrunk, have no muscles in my feet. Have to get shoes like Birks with front straps to hold them on. I have started falling again, if I turn quickly I will fall over.

    Statins have ruined the rest of my life. Before the statins I had stage 3 Uterine Cancer. I am now 19 yrs cancer free, I’ve been told I beat the odds. Sad isn’t it that a pill could ruin the “bonus” time I had on earth. Think before you take statins my friends….

  18. Annie Ross

    I had a mini- stroke the doctors could understand why. I believe is was due to the Simvastatin. I was dizziness everyday. Heart Palpitations every morning I took this medication. I one day decides not to take it I called my physician in explained I was having these heart palpitations . I would hope someone can tell me , if they were having any of these problems. The day I didn’t take the medication I felt better. A little confused and dizziness. This may be due to the Mini-Stroke. Now ! Causing the dizziness…

  19. Barbara
    St. Louis

    My doctor put me on Simvastatin a couple of years ago and I started having muscle problems with my legs. I still have the leg pain in my muscle and have trouble walking without pain. Also this wakes me up at night and I have had muscle cramps all down my leg very severe. I stopped taking the medication as soon as I read that statins can cause muscle problems. However, I am still having the problems. Wish I would never taken this medication. I never had these problems before taking the Simvastatin drug. bk

    • Yvonne

      I was having the same problem, heart palpatations very scary. I have stopped completely with the simvastatin. It is a killer! I am still having slight problems even having being off for 4 days. I will never take it again.

  20. sharon

    my leg is hurting a little now but for a couple of days now pain in the back of knee area but this is not first time I have had about ten to a lot of leg ultra sounds on my legs could not find nothing wrong but now due my bros misery in the hospital for 4wks due to muscles and can’t find out what has cause it but took him off of simavation so take heed find out about ur meds for sure.

    • karina
      Washington, DC

      I was prescribed Simvastatin (Zocor) (20m) and after a week on it, I have muscle aches, Neck stiffness, my joins ache, I have chills, stomach cramps, I feel dizzy and disoriented. I can’t afford Lipitor which seems to work best for me. I called my Dr. and he is prescribing a lower doze, I will give it a try, my total cholesterol is 286 DHL 198;Non-DHL222.

  21. Sunshine1ny
    New York

    My HDL, LDl, and Triglycerides and all bloodlabs, & A1C have been normal for the past 2 years, I forgot to take Simvastatin for about a week; decided to see if I could stop using it. Two months later blood tests revealed that I needed to go back on it (20 mg):
    Total Cholesterol 269 (normal 125-200 mg/dl)
    HDL. 80. (Normal. > = 46 mg/dl)
    Cholesterol/HDL Ratio 3.4. (Normal < 5.0)
    LDL Calculated. 166. (Normal < 130 mg/dl)
    Triglycerides. 113. (Normal 150 mg/dl)
    Non HDL Cholesterol. 189. mg/dl (Target is 30 mg/dl higher
    than LDL cholesterol target)
    It would seem to me that there should be some natural alternatives that could be used whose dosage could be constant and reliable. Does anyone know of any naturopathic substitute for Simvastatin?

  22. Jamie
    New York

    I was prescribed Simvastatin over the last few years and finally started taking it regularly. I was wondering if others have noticed increased mood swings, short temper, AND LOW SEX DRIVE. This concerns me as a 45 year old male

    • Maurice

      I stopped worrying about the whole erectile business as I hurt all over but especially in my back and hands. Off this crap for 2 weeks now and other than some residual pain in the morning I feel years younger than my current 47 years.

  23. eileen

    I took simvastatin for about 7 years . And recently I started developing severe muscle cramps in both legs I stopped taking this medicine about 2 weeks and I noticed a swelling in my upper right thigh I am in a lot of pain . Can anybody have answers and can we sue thee fda for keeping this product on thee market.

  24. Carolyn
    La Porte, Indiana

    I am relieved that I have found this website peoples pharmacy. I had my annual checkup with my doctor, was told my cholesterol was 270. My doctor said, it should be under 200, I was told to take Simvastatin.

    I have taken it for three weeks, I had noticed soreness in my muscles. Today and yesterday I have had extreme pain in my back, elbows, hip, leg, shoulder especially in triceps and biceps.

    The pain was so extreme, I laid in bed trying not to move since moving made pain more intense. I will not be taking any more of these simvastatin tablets again.

  25. Bonnie
    United States

    Suffered a CVA stroke with no lasting effects, put me on 1 325MG aspirin morning and Zoco 40mg at night for 4 months. Have had shoulder pain for 1 week, just got over a 2 day spell with back pain, and I am literally fatigued so bad all I want to do is sleep. Not me at all, just wondering why I am even on this crap as my LDL was 139, HDL 55 and Triglycerides 192. I think I am going to stop taking this and see if my energy level increases. Fish oil and flax seed for me!!!

    • annie
      United States

      Bonnie I started taking the same medicine I swell legs, hurt back makes me sleep all day gain weight it’s not a good feeling on way to my doctor now.

    • Beverly Griffin
      United States

      I was having sever thigh and muscle pain. For about a year it has gotten to the point where if I sit down getting up is like pulling teeth. I recently lost control over my knee and I have been back and forth to doctors not to mention spending money on walkers an crutches. For some reason I kNew it had to be the Zocor. I would take my blood pressure pills and I knee that the loss of fluids could cause cramping. So I started taking lower doses. That didn’t help. Last night I thought my muscles in my leg were ripping. I was paralyzed for 5-8 mins. I prayed myself out of this pain. I decided to look into my Cholesterol medicine. This site came up. I’m will not be taking this medicine anymore. I will go natural for my healing.

  26. Miriam
    Puerto Rico

    My Doctor insists I take Simvastatin, but I don’t like all these side effects! What to do? What to do?

    • Beverly G

      Ask for something else. Research it.

  27. Angela L.
    United Kingdom

    I have been reduced from 40 to 20 I started tonight. I am awake at 3am now with pain again in my legs and hips. I am 53 yrs old.

    • jimmy

      An alternative to statins is Niacin- it works just as well or better with no nasty side effects.
      If you do opt for statins, all statins should be taken with co-enzyme Q 10 and also magnesium.
      Note: Cholesterol is not the problem.

    • Joe

      40 mg of Atorvastatin was giving me bad pain in muscles and joints. I cut down the dosage to 20 mg and still had pain, severe enough to wake me in the middle of the night. I could only go back to sleep after taking strong pain killers. This was no way to live! Other symptoms were memory problems, nosebleeds, fatigue, mood swings, low sex drive.

      I stopped taking Atorvastatin completely 3 months ago, the worst pain was gone quickly (a few days), could sleep through the night. There is still some minor pain when I walk.
      I will NEVER take statins again!

      I have yet to find a study that proves that lowering cholesterol prevents heart attacks and strokes.
      I bet the “science” behind pushing statins on us would change overnight, if the federal government imposed special “public welfare tax” on profits from the sale of statins.

  28. deanna

    Wow wondering why I was having muscle spasms all over mainly in the shoulders and arms I could feel the trembles and I could feel heat all over my muscles. My doctor prescribe the medicine a new doctor I started seeing he warned about the organ damage and said in a month need a blood test. Well Dec 31st I ended up at the ER they said muscle spasms well I followed up with my doctor and told him off the muscle spasms and told them they were so bad I was down for 2 days with dizziness then the ER gave me muscle relaxers he said those can be additive. All this time I thought I was falling apart not even a month on this medicine. Well I was getting a physical for my new job I had to report all medicines he saw the muscle relaxer and the cholesterol medicine that’s when that doctor told me about this so I hope I get to feeling better cuz I still hurt all over now because of the cholesterol med s I had to get a muscle relaxer now I have to wait on my new employer to ok it even though I am not taking it after today. Why did I have to hear about this from another doctor?


    I have taken statins now for 18 years. I take them at walmart pharmacy for only 4 dollars a month. I take now semivastatin ant can I tell you that in 2014 they finally have caught up with me. My doctor I called and said I was going off of them my cholestrol went from 139 to 232. I had a independent lab do a test on my cholestrol and it went to 253. I called and got back on them at low dose(10mg) last time I went to doctor my cholestrol was 175
    my mind is being drained of something though. I feel light headed all the time. I’m in a catch 22 situation. Either I get and keep cholestrol down or have a heart attack if I quit taken them.

    • Wes

      Since the US government finally admitted cholesterol has nothing to do with heart disease, after 50 years of promoting the drug companies party line, you might rethink why you are taking this.

  30. JOSEPH T.

    Also I am taking 10 mg of zolpidem at bedtime for a sleep aide. I have seen the paperwork that comes with it, that it can cause memory loss is that true? My memory loss is short term stuff. some days are better then others. thanks

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