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

Tens of millions of people take statins such as atorvastatin, lovastatin, pravastatin, rosuvastatin and simvastatin. Most physicians acknowledge that they have patients who complain about muscle pain and weakness after taking statins to lower cholesterol. But some researchers maintain that statins don’t cause serious side effects (The European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, March, 2014). Drug company-sponsored research has been very good at minimizing muscle-related symptoms from clinical trials. But there is growing awareness that statins and muscle damage can be severe. Myositis is very worrisome.

A Reader Reports Statins and Muscle Damage:

Q. Several weeks ago you wrote about the side effects of cholesterol-lowering statin medicines. According to the article, these drugs can attack muscle tissue and the damage may be irreversible.

That is what happened to me. I now need to use a cane when I walk, and I worry that someday I might need a wheelchair. I took statins for only a short time. The doctor told me that my cholesterol was fine, but I should take these pills as preventative medicine.

Can you please tell me more about the research on muscle damage? I believe we all need to know more about the risks of these drugs.

Documenting Statins and Muscle Damage:

A. Most health professionals recognize that statins can cause muscle pain (myalgia). They may not be as familiar with the adverse reaction called inflammatory myositis. This autoimmune muscle disease is rare (occurring in approximately 3 people out of 100,000 taking a statin) but it is debilitating and potentially irreversible (JAMA Internal Medicine, Sept. 2018).

Symptoms of this condition include difficulty doing normal activities such as walking up stairs, getting out of a chair or lifting arms. Muscle weakness and soreness that do not go away are other potential signs. There is no cure.

Read more about this devastating muscle condition at this link.

Do Statins Cause Myositis? A Devastating Muscle Disorder

The FDA Obfuscates Statins and Muscle Damage:

The FDA makes only passing reference to myositis in its prescribing information for atorvastatin (Lipitor), pitavastatin (Livalo) and rosuvastatin (Crestor). Here is how the agency lists this very serious statin complication. You will see that myositis is lumped together with lots of other scary side effects. It could easily be missed amidst the medical word salad:

“Postmarketing Experience

“The following adverse reactions have been identified during post-approval use of atorvastatin calcium. Because these reactions are reported voluntarily from a population of uncertain size, it is not always possible to reliably estimate their frequency or establish a causal relationship to drug exposure.

“Adverse reactions associated with atorvastatin calcium therapy reported since market introduction, that are not listed above, regardless of causality assessment, include the following: anaphylaxis, angioneurotic edema, bullous rashes (including erythema multiforme, Stevens-Johnson syndrome, and toxic epidermal necrolysis), rhabdomyolysis, myositis, fatigue, tendon rupture, fatal and non-fatal hepatic failure, dizziness, depression, peripheral neuropathy, pancreatitis and interstitial lung disease.

“There have been rare reports of immune-mediated necrotizing myopathy associated with statin use.”

Reader Stories About Statins and Muscle Damage:

Chris has been permanently affected by statins:

“I for one, have had my health and my life destroyed by statins. Myositis is the tip of the iceberg for my last 16 years of disability. Muscle biopsy confirmed it. Brain biopsy confirmed apoptosis (programmed brain cell death). Electron microscopy confirmed mitochondrial mutation most similar to Mitochondrial Encephalomyopathy with Lactic Acidosis and Stroke-Like Episodes (MELAS).

“Even with all this data, all of my physicians (who eagerly prescribed these drugs to my healthy 29 year old body), vehemently denied that statins could cause anything but rainbows, unicorns and puppy dogs. They arrogantly spew the phrase ‘Tell me again how your Google Search trumps my medical degree.’

“The biopsy findings were confirmed to be the result of my three years of statin use.”

Allison shares this story about her sister’s experience with statins and muscle damage:

“My sister is in a nursing home now because of polymyositis. She has had this disease for about 15 years. We believe it started with her taking Lipitor.

“She used to be able to walk 2-3 miles per day. All of a sudden she started falling down. It got worse and worse. She went from being on a cane, to using a walker to a wheelchair to now…completely bed-ridden in a nursing home. This all happened within 15 years.

“For some people statins may work without complications. For the 10-20% of people they harm, it’s just not worth it in my opinion. My doctor prescribed a statin to me due to my cholesterol being a point or two over the norm. Well, I refused to take it!

“Seeing my sister just cry and cry because she cannot do anything for herself is heartbreaking. She is only 66 and has been in a nursing home for three years. She needs help to turn over or get out of bed. I wish there were a way to reverse her polymyositis and muscle atrophy.”

More Information About Statins:

Many, if not most, people can take statins without experiencing any side effects. That’s a good thing. But some people experience serious adverse reactions. They should not be ignored. At the first symptoms of myositis, patients should alert their health professionals. You can learn more about other serious statin side effects in our book, Top Screwups. It is available at your local library or online in our bookstore.

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  1. Ann Hayes
    Canada
    Reply

    I have been taking Mylan Simvastatin 5 mg. for a month, with no problem at all, but in trying to refill it, have been told they are not making the drug any longer. At my pharmacy I have been offered Apo or Ran Simvastatin and I am concerned as to which I should take. Can you please help me. My lipids are very good yet my kidneys are not and I am going in to have a stent placed in the kidney artery. I think the choice is critical to me. Can you please advise me? Thank you in advance.

  2. jane
    CO
    Reply

    I will say again… drugs do NOT create health. At best they mask or alleviate symptoms. Giving powerful chemicals as “prevention” pushes up against malpractice to me. ALL drugs have side effects, sometimes they are severe so prescribing something that could do great harm to someone who is healthy “just to be safe” or whatever is extremely poorly thought out and seems very counter to the “first, do no harm.” caveat.

  3. Jeannette
    Scotland
    Reply

    I knew many years ago my mothers cramps and progression to awful weakness were down to statins – she now has bad memory problems all down to statins (my strong belief). I hope this will inform your readers of all the very real ramifications of statins and the ‘seeming’ failure of doctors to understand cholesterol: Primal Questions with Dr Malcolm Kendrick
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r2Hv7ErHyFM

  4. G
    Utah
    Reply

    Twenty five years a doctor attempted to put me on statins and I refused. I am now 81 and in good health. I walk and exercise 50 minutes a day, five days a week.

  5. Phil
    Virginia
    Reply

    About 15 years ago my Doctor said I had marginally high cholesterol and I should be taking Crestor. So I began taking as directed and after 6 months there was no change in the slight cholesterol. After another six months still no change. I had begun to have painful leg muscles. I quit the Crestor and within several days the pains disappeared. I set the Crestor aside and never took it again. I changed Dr. after several more years and and he advised me not to take any similar medication. He did have me take a blood test for cholesterol full detail. He pointed out that I had good HDL above 40. and the LDL measured around 1750. The HDL was around 60. The simple test, not separating the two’ I would and did measured a total of 2200. I’m now in my 80’s and life is good.

  6. Crystal G., RN
    FL
    Reply

    My husband took Lipitor for 2 years in the 90s. Forget Myositis, he had outright muscle cramps all over his body at night. This caused a chronic rhabdomyolysis which severely damaged his kidneys. My pharmacist and I figured out that it was the Lipitor. Did a 2 wk trial OFF it. No cramps. Tried going back on it.48 hrs later cramps started. That was the last dose he took. Several docs thought his renal dz was due to diabetes/HTN except for one little thing. 6 mos after stopping Lipitor, his kidneys quit dumping protein. PMD finally agreed with me, it was due to statins.
    The real kicker is that in 2009 he had a heart cath. Cholesterol and triglycerides were high. in spite of that, he had virtually no heart disease. One artery, posterior, had a 40% blockage that they did nothing about. His mother died at 90 with very high cholesterol and NO treatment during her life-time. The real key to heart disease is genetics, IMHO. Just saw a 54 yo woman drop dead. Skinny, took care of herself, exercised regularly, no abnormal labs like chol or trigly. Bad family history. The runner, Jim Fixx was a good example. Died young from heart disease. I have cautioned my adult children and my grandchildren not to take statin drugs.

  7. Steve
    Abingdon, Maryland
    Reply

    I am now 66 years old and was told 16 years ago to take Lipitor. I did for 6 months and quit. Painful elbows and feeling tired all the time. Still don’t take them and never will. Most recent study indicates the life expectancy of someone on statins vs. not is only 4 or 5 days longer- essentially do difference.

    Another problem is they focus on total cholesterol. I’ve been told it’s the small particle lpa that is the concern. Anyway it boils down to what you want to do with your life. I sat in front of a Johns Hopkins lipid specialist who lectured me for 60 minutes about statin therapy, how it works and why I must be on them. I listened as it was very clear he had NO interest in what I was doing with my life. Before parting he told me the secretary would call me an schedule an appointment for follow-up. That never happened and that was 2 years ago. I am very careful with my diet and am very active. Still play competitive baseball and work in construction.

    One final note. there is no easy and reasonable way to collect data about any drug once it is released. Many tell their doctor about symptoms but are either ignored or lectured. It isn’t until many years afterward we learn of things that may have wrecked our life. My advice is be informed, be smart and look out for your own best interest. Sometimes you are right!!!

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