bottles of crestor lipitor and simvastatin cholesterol-lowering drugs, numbness in fingers and toes

Atorvastatin (Lipitor) is one of the most prescribed drugs in the world. At last count, over 100 million prescriptions were dispensed annually  in the U.S. (Quintiles IMS, May, 2017, now IQVIA Institute). It is frequently prescribed to try to prevent a cardiovascular event such as a heart attack or a stroke. Doctors call this “primary prevention.” That remains controversial. Read more at this link. What is far less controversial is the use of statins after a heart attack. That is called “secondary prevention.” The goal is to prevent a second (or third) heart attack. This patient was taking a statin for secondary prevention. Was he adequately advised of atorvastatin side effects?

Q. I had a major cardiac event that I am lucky to have survived. About three months later, I developed a horrible case of psoriasis. I had open lesions on the palms of my hands and my feet. Bathing was sheer agony and I could barely walk.

I suffered with this for about a year and a half. I suspected that atorvastatin was causing my problem and asked my doctors about it. Both the cardiologist and the dermatologist said there was no connection between the statin and my psoriasis.

I finally did a Google search that led me to a case report from the Department of Dermatology at the University of Genoa, Italy, in 2009. It conclusively proved that atorvastatin can worsen a case of psoriasis. I contacted Pfizer, and they referred me to the article I had already discovered. Why didn’t my doctors know this fact?

As soon as I read that clinical study, I immediately discontinued the atorvastatin and my psoriasis started to improve. Please inform the public. I suffered needlessly for a year and a half just because my physicians didn’t know about this adverse reaction.

Should the Doctors Have Known About All Statin Side Effects?

A. Psoriasis is not listed as one of the atorvastatin side effects in the prescribing information. That may be why your physicians were unaware of it. You really cannot blame them if the FDA and the drug company did not recognize this as a drug complication.

It is not unusual for pharmaceutical companies to miss rare or unusual side effects during clinical trials. For example, no one knew that blood sugar elevations and diabetes were linked to statins during the early years of research into this class of medicines. It wasn’t on anyone’s radar. We started hearing from readers about statins and blood sugar elevations in 2003, but it wasn’t until 2008 that an official connection was detected.

A key trial of rosuvastatin (Crestor) called JUPITOR revealed that statins could indeed raise blood glucose (New England Journal of Medicine, Nov. 20, 2008). Until that study, most health professionals did not believe that statins could increase blood sugar or make diabetes harder to control. Read more about this fascinating case at this link:

What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About the Statin and Diabetes Connection

Statins and Psoriasis?

As we noted above, there is nothing in the official prescribing information under atorvastatin side effects that mentions psoriasis. We were able to track down the article you referred to (Journal of Dermatological Case Reports, Dec. 30, 2009).  Another case report describes a psoriasis-like reaction to pravastatin (Case Reports in Dermatological Medicine, July 31, 2017). The authors note that statins may often be overlooked as the cause of skin reactions.

Those were the only reports we could locate linking psoriasis to statins. We cannot tell you if this is exceedingly rare or has been overlooked. Perhaps other people who have experienced atorvastatin side effects will share their experiences in the comment section below.

Other Atorvastatin Side Effects:

More common atorvastatin side effects include muscle pain or spasms. These can crop up almost anywhere in the body (legs, shoulders, back, arms or neck).

Very few health professionals have heard of arthritis as one of the atorvastatin side effects. Yet “arthralgia” (arthritis-like pain) is noted in the official prescribing information as a “commonly reported adverse reaction.”

As mentioned, blood sugar elevations are now recognized as one of the atorvastatin side effects. The official language states:

“Increases in HbA1c and fasting serum glucose levels have been reported with HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors [statins], including LIPITOR.”

Nerve pain, peripheral neuropathy and leg cramps are possible with atorvastatin. So is digestive upset. Pancreatitis is considered quite rare, but it can be incredibly painful and very serious. Learn more about atorvastatin side effects and complications at this link.

Share your own experience with atorvastatin in the comment section below. Have you experienced any adverse skin reactions? Our reader would certainly like to know if anyone else developed psoriasis or some other dermatological complication.

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  1. Mike
    Northern California
    Reply

    Hi all, I am going through this now.

    I have had high cholesterol for 10 to 15 years. Dr. recommended treatment about 6 months ago and here I am. I was wondering how I’ve always had oily skin since youth, (I’m now 48) if that was an indication of hereditary high cholesterol. Now suddenly my skin is thin, dry, itchy, and takes weeks to heal from a simple scratch. I also suffer from arthritis type pain between shoulder blades and very painful shoulder joints… been off meds for 2 weeks an all symptoms still there.

  2. Barbara
    Penna.
    Reply

    I also took generic for lipator for 20-30 years ( started on lipator ). Lost all my fingernails & toenails, tongue , mouth & lips were swollen. Hands broke out with lesions. Had all kinds of medical tests done. Tests showed up on the negative side. Blood work was ????. Also lost 42lbs. in a matter of 3-6 months. Dr. now put me on Pravastatin 40mg. Thought I would share what Iam going through with you. It is very frustrating, all most a year. Thank You for the article 02-13-2018. Doctors say Iam a mystery. Our medical field today still has a lot to learn.

  3. Marie
    Florida
    Reply

    I too have been suffering from lichenoid dermitis just to my palms and soles of my feet. The fissures are so bad I couldn’t walk or go to work The biopsy result was stated as (drug allergy). I’ve been on a statin and a beta blocker both contributed to this skin disorder. Once I stopped the drugs I started to clear up. My dermatologist was clueless.

  4. Julie R
    Ohio
    Reply

    I had a second heart attack in Nov. I was given lipitor, a beta blocker, toproporol xl, steroids,lasix singular, and theophylline and brintlix 90mg 2x pr day plus two aspirin a day. I’m a complete mess.

    I’m nauseated all the time have gained 12 lbs red dots all over my stomach and a itchy rash. I have muscle pain, headaches gas (which I can’t control) embarrassed by it. My stent from a heart attack in 2010 failed. He said my heart looks great except for this spot. I wasn’t given an option to not get a stent. They had a lot of trouble opening the old stent. I’ve had palpitations and am scared to death.

    I have a clotting disorder.. genetic.. I have COPD and have had many flare ups since the heart attack. I’m 67 and was doing well before this time. I was eating right and lost 30 lbs happy no high pressure or pre diabetes had energy didn’t look or feel like 67. Now I feel terrible. What do I do? Drs. Say I need to be on All these meds. I say these are killing me. Help?

  5. Carole
    Sydney, Australia
    Reply

    What is described as psoriasis on the hands and feet sounds like dyshidrosis to me. I study dyshidrosis (AKA pomphylox). Antibiotics, Steroids, and medications that raise blood sugar and medications that lower stomach acid and medications that are SSRIs/MAOs all cause dyshidrosis (main cause is pregnancy, an endogenous hormone upset). Dyshidrosis is the “ID reaction” writ large. An opportunistic pathogen takes over in the gut fed by high blood sugar, and usually this appears to be Candida yeast to Candida fungus, altered by steroids or antibiotics, and starts to alert the immune system of an infection, the immune system sends out histamine which cannot find the parthogen or it registers only harmless Candida yeast and settles on the glabrous skin of the feet and hands as this has the most histamine receptors. This can be tested by taking 180mg loading dose of 180mg followed by 60mg every 8 hours of Fexofenadine HC for 5 days. If the psoriasis/dyshidrosis disappears, well, we know what is the cause. My research is at http://www.dyshidrosis.co.uk

  6. Loyd
    Indiana
    Reply

    I have had several “heart-events” involving angioplasty 1997-2016. After the 1st event, I was placed on statin-drugs, and have remained on them ever since. I have 6 stents emplaced within my arteries.
    Immediately after being placed upon the drug, I developed psoriasis-like eruptions on my scalp… I still have them (2018), making visits to the barber embarrassing.
    Strangely, I also began an escalating glucose level and now take insulin injections, Novolog pen before meals and took Metformin for years (now changed to Saxaglyptin in 2017).
    Arthritic-like pain wracks my fingers, legs, feet and hips. I have spasms periodically in my sides and back within the rib-cage.. thank God they are episodic, and not constant.
    All these conditions arose soon after my first heart attack… all have gotten progressively worse during the past 10 years.

  7. Amy
    Des Moines Iowa
    Reply

    Recently my doctor put me on Atorvastastin for elevated cholesterol. I had taken it 2 days and then was awakened in the middle of the night with pain in my back between my shoulders. I went off immediately and told my doctor and said I can’t ever be on statins again. No trouble since I went off!

  8. Chris
    WI
    Reply

    Dear PeoplesPharmacy,
    I sincerely applaud your efforts in sharing the truth about Statin drugs, as well as a host of other drugs which may or may not be of significant benefit to human kind, as much as it would benefit the Deep Pockets of the drug companies… I have been disabled since 2002, due to the unpublished adverse effects of Lipitor(one of many statins). In me they caused Neuronal Apoptosis (programmed brain cell death) which looked like holes in my brain, under biopsy, also they caused Mitochondrial DNA mutation similar to Mitochondrial Encephalomyopathy with Lactic Acidosis and Stroke Like Episodes (MELAS), and peripheral neuropathy, all ending my career as a Critical Care RN, which I poured my heart and soul into. The confirmation of the findings of my brain and muscle biopsies, as well as the dozens of lesions on my brain, and EMG confirming neuropathy, were all confirmed as a Cause of my medical nightmare, by Dr Beatrice Golomb MD, PhD, of the UCSD Statin effects study I was in, and by Dr Doug Wallace PhD, of UC Irvine, whom Dr Golomb referred to as one of the top Mitochondrial Disease specialists in the US. My former neurologist, Professor of Medicine at UW Madison, told me my illness/disability was a result of a Virus, and thats in spite of Speaking with Dr Golomb who called him to discuss my case as it relates to the Statin Effects Study. Nearly every doctor Id spoken to since this time, have all adamantly denied the notion that statins can cause anything but wondrous things.. Again, thank you for what you do!!

  9. Ann Y.
    Fla.
    Reply

    I was on Lipitor for five or six years, when I developed terrible itching literally from head to toe. It was so bad I slept with a hair brush in hand, to use where ever needed. My doctor suspected Lipitor. I was sent to a dermatologist who had a full length body enclosure unit. I had to completely strip down and stand in the strong blue light for just a few minutes, three times a week for two weeks. Then the itching was gone! I am now on 20 mg of Crestor, with no side effects.

  10. Lesly S
    Ohio
    Reply

    I stopped lipitor because of muscle cramps and spasms but stopping did nothing to help with psoriasis.

  11. Theresa
    Plano, TEXAS
    Reply

    I began a regiment of Lipitor in 2000 and immediately experienced my initial case of psoriasis. No doctor would admit it could be associated with the drug. Unfortunately, it became a permanent condition. My psoriasis is much worse during the bright summer months in Texas and it ebbs a bit in the winter. This is not the usual case. If I wear a sun blocking hat, I can avoid the lesions on my scalp. I have psoriasis on my back, arms, legs, fingernails, ears and under the breasts. It is itchy to the point of pain sometimes. The lipitor also gave me neuropathy, high blood sugar, muscle pain, restless legs and liver damage. I was a fool to listen to the doctors and take it for ten years. Now I have high cholesterol but feel like a million dollars because I am drug free! My psoriasis seems to be planning on staying with me for the rest of my life. Bummer!

  12. Sue
    WI
    Reply

    I have stopped taking atorvastatin because of trouble with focus and feeling confusion. It took a few weeks and I felt better and could think clearer. I am trying diet and exercise to avoid going back on a statin. Has anyone else had this kind of result taking this statin and is there another choice that does not have that result?

  13. Pat
    Reply

    Just a comment. I do not take drugs. I took 500mg of Niacin to lower my cholesterol. Long story, short I ended up with Numeral Eczema. Psorasis and Eczema are different, but can express themselves with similar symptoms on the skin (intense itching, oozing, disfiguration). I have never had skin issues in my life…not even teenage acne. I delved into other supplements I was taking, possible interactions etc. There is no way I can say concretely what caused this eczema….but my speculation is the large dose of Niacin. I write this comment because just as people who take statins are trying to lower their cholesterol….I was trying to do the same thing with Niacin. Maybe there is a mechanism within cholesterol lowering agents that triggers something in the body and expresses itself on the skin.

  14. Melinda
    TN
    Reply

    I seem to have more issues with dyshidrotic eczema than I did previously to being on a statin. However, I have been on statins for over 15 years. I believe my major trigger is stress, not the statin.

  15. Mary
    Reply

    Yes, I too take Atorvastin when I go to bed. Would get ingestion (sp). Told my physician about it. Of course, he looked at me and thought I was crazy. So now, after I eat dinner, I will wait 2 hours and then take the meds. So far no indigestion. But then, last week before going to bed, I took the meds. Just wanted to see what would happened. I too the med with a full glass of water. Guess what? Yup! During the night had to get up and take an antacid tablet to get relief.

  16. Kathleen
    NC
    Reply

    My mother had pancreatitis after taking Lipitor and had to be hospitalized twice. Her cholesterol was always about 230, and she had no known risks for heart attack. She stopped taking it.

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