statins help or harm

Tens of millions of American men take a statin every day: atorvastatin, lovastatin, pravastatin, simvastatin and rosuvastatin, to name just a few. Do drugs like atorvastatin cause erectile dysfunction? This reader wants to know.

Q. I am 43. My cholesterol was elevated to 290, so my doctor prescribed atorvastatin.

My wife is 39 and very sexy. People usually think she’s in her 20s. I have normal sexual urges, but when we have the chance to make love, getting an erection is super difficult.

She thinks I am losing interest in her or that there is someone else. Neither has happened in our 20 years together and certainly isn’t true now. So, my erectile difficulties are causing problems in our marriage.

I recently had my cholesterol checked again and it has dropped all the way to 111. I plan to STOP taking this drug and maintain the lower levels by eating better. Would that restore my ability to get an erection?

A. The effects of statins on libido and sexual performance have been controversial for years. There is evidence that these cholesterol-lowering drugs lower testosterone levels (BMC Medicine, Feb. 28, 2013)

Although testosterone is linked to sexual desire and performance, a recent meta-analysis involving nearly 70,000 men did not find an association between statin use and erectile dysfunction (American Journal of Medicine, April 2018).

Other Reports of Statins and ED:

We have heard from many other men who, like you, believe that statins contributed to their sexual problems. Most health professionals reject such “anecdotes.” And we must agree that a meta-analysis of clinical trials involving tens of thousands of men is quite convincing.

Then again, it is possible to miss embarrassing side effects if you don’t specifically ask about them. Some adverse reactions are slow to manifest, as this reader suggests:

Anthony in New South Wales, Australia offers this report:

“Have taken 2.5 mg of rosuvastatin (Crestor) about three times a week since July 2017. My LDL levels crashed from 4.2mmol/L to 2.1mmol/L. Total Cholesterol 6.6 to 4.2 mmol/L (anything much over 5.5 is bad). Bloods were taken early January too, so all that bad eating over Christmas and New Years would have been factored in. HDL utterly untouched at around 1.8-1.9 mmol/L (which is good). So Crestor, even at this minimal dose is quite a commando drug.

“Started getting very fatigued around December with ED coming on around the same time. I have slightly elevated uric acid levels which results in the odd gout attack. I’m on low dose febuxostat for that. In higher doses Febuxostat, and Allopurinol which I used before that, definitely brought on ED over a period of time.

“Now I am on on 2.5 mg of Crestor per week. Luckily I just need a minimal dose. Although even after that one dose at night the ED side effects (for me at least) seem pretty obvious the next day, albeit wearing off soon after.

“This can be a real ‘frog in the pot’ situation. Side effects come on so slow you can easily convince yourself that it’s something else like diet, age, stress, fitness etc. So if in doubt regulate your dosage to find that middle path balancing side effects with desired medical outcomes.”

Neat in the UK presents a female perspective:

“My husband is taking artovastatin and ramipril. He has lower libido and ED. Like men can be, he will not talk about it. I worry that I am not attractive to him anymore, which is possibly causing ED. I am very understanding of this situation but he just turns away when I suggest anything sexual. How can you approach someone like this? I love him very much and want to help.”

Tony in Ontario, Canada shares his atorvastatin experience:

“I’m 60 and have high cholesterol. My doctor prescribed atorvastatin. After taking it for a week, I couldn’t have an erection anymore. Before, I used to have sex with my young wife about 3 to 4 times a week.

“I now have ED. I’m going to stop taking this and look for alternatives.”

Confusion About Atorvastatin and ED?

Can atorvastatin cause erectile dysfunction? The research seems to say no. But some men think statins do affect their sex life. Regardless, do not stop the drug on your own. Discuss the situation with your physician. Point out that there is a new meta-analysis showing no relationship between statins and ED. Describe your own experience.

We cannot say whether stopping a statin will make a difference, but a healthful diet and exercise to lower cholesterol may also have benefits in the bedroom.

Share your own statin experience in the comment section below.

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  1. Raffi
    Toronto, Canada , 5-102 Brahms Av. M2H 1H2

    Repatha =What’s this? A med or injection for organ.

  2. Bill

    I had ED arise 15 years ago at the age of 55. I had been taking statins and other heart drugs for about 10 years. Sadly, generic viagra and regular viagra have very little effect. Recently, I noticed that the generic (and the brand name also) cause me to urinate easily like when I was young. I realized I have urinary retention symptoms. Anyone else notice these connections?

  3. Jim

    I am 71 now and had a mild heart attack when I was 66. I had been on a relatively low statin for years and had never really made the connection but now that have read this I realize that my loss of libido started around the time I began taking them at around 40 years old. I was in and off of them a number of as my weight would fluctuate and the cholesterol would go up when I was too heavy. All during this time sex became more difficult until I could no longer function which led to the failure of my marriage with my beautiful wife of 35 years. One year latter I had my heart attack and they put me on a heavy dose of statin. In less than six months I developed severe neurological pain in my feet and muscle spasms all over. My Doctor took me off of the statin and changed me to using an injectable called “Repatha”. It was amazing how well this works, absolutely no side effects that I can tell, my HDL went from 280 to 140 and my LDL went from low to right in the middle of perfect. Since then I have lost 60 lbs and got off of blood thinners to nothing but baby aspirin and I HAVE DISCOVERED MY SEXUAL URGES RETURNING though today I must admit that age is playing a role in my ability.

  4. GR Bunn

    Someone at age 43 should not have ED. This is big pharma insanity. The side effects of these drugs are either ignored or accepted by the patients. Not likely. It is like a “terms of use” that you agree to when downloading a stupid social media app. No. Won’t work. This writer took SSRIs and have had very serious problems from the initial ingestion to the present. It started in 1995 and still exists even though the treatment was ended years ago. Read and heed the side effects and talk to other consumers. Don’t rely on the flimsy internet info to do your ‘heavy lifting’. These drugs can really mess up your life. Be aware!

  5. Donna

    I would recommend trying a Whole Food, Plant Based diet. Read “How to Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease” by Caldwell Esselstyn, MD. Vascular disease can affect blood flow all over the body, including the reproductive organs. Canary in the coal mine, so to speak.

  6. Steve

    I am 76 and have been on atorvastatin and other statins for 10-15 years. And I am Type 2 diabetic and been on metformin and glimepiride for the same period. All of these drugs have been effective. Otherwise, I am physically fit but have developed ED over time. The latter could be the result of any one or all of the above. My (and my wife’s) interest in sex has diminished somewhat over time but still exists so I somewhat reluctantly (probably a guy thing) looked into and started taking the generic form of Viagra (Sildenhafil). I take a pill when my wife and I decide it is time to have sex and it works fine. That means our sex life is not very spontaneous. On the other had, it is much more collaborative which turns out to be a good thing.

  7. Tom

    Failure to get from firm to hard has a vascular component. Stay on the statin but add a vascular med of proven help Viagara ( available as a generic ) . Remember not to use with nitroglycerine because of excessive vasodiltation .

  8. Frank

    My hospital visit summary used to call it erectile dysfunction but now calls it erection failure. Whichever it is, I’m under the impression that the problem is more likely related to vascular congestion and therefore reduced circulation. The penis, being a muscle, requires blood pumped into it to become ‘hard’. Reduced circulation can prevent a sufficient blood supply. You might look in that direction. Believe me, friends, it took a couple of sexless decades before the problem became obvious—to me, at least. You’ve probably experienced your penis responding but it’s not. I’ve read a good review of Trimix on this site. It helped me.

  9. Carol

    My two cents:
    As a skeptic when it comes to drug studies often being conducted by drug companies and, in my view, skewed to favor the side which encourages continuing to use a drug, i have doubts about the results of the meta-analysis being the whole story. I have “no dog in this hunt” but this is just my outlook in general.

    • Phyllia

      My thoughts exactly. I have lowered my cholesterol through diet. Every time I tried a statin drug I had problems with muscle weakness that went away when I stopped taking the statin. Being female I have no problem with the ED. But my distrust of the drug companies is very real and with good cause.

    • Tom

      Carol, being a skeptic is good but medication use is a “try and see” effort.

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