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

Statin enthusiasts have a hard time accepting that statin-type cholesterol-lowering drugs have side effects. There is even one clinical trial analysis from the UK that concluded “At the doses tested in these 83,880 patients, only a small minority of symptoms reported on statins are genuinely due to the statins: almost all reported symptoms occurred just as frequently when patients were administered placebo.” Many newspapers had headlines like: “Statins Have Virtually No Side-Effects, Study Finds” and “Statins have ‘fewer side effects than placebo’, suggests UK study.” What about neuropathy. Do statins cause nerve pain? It does not show up in the clinical trials.

Can Medications Cause Nerve Pain?

Q. I take a statin for high cholesterol. Over the years, I have developed neuropathy. I suspect the statins caused this problem. Is there any research that links neuropathy to statin use? I’d be grateful for whatever you can send me.

A. Nerve damage leading to pain (neuropathy) is controversial as a statin side effect. If you review the clinical trial data for popular statins like atorvastatin (Lipitor), rosuvastatin (Crestor) or simvastatin (Zocor) you would conclude that such statins do not cause nerve pain. At least there is nothing in the official prescribing information about this.

Dig a little deeper, however, and you will find in the FDA’s official monographs for such drugs under the category Postmarketing Experience:

“peripheral neuropathy”

There are no details. We have no idea how common neuropathic pain or peripheral neuropathy might be for patients taking statins.

Is There Any Research Suggesting Statins Cause Nerve Pain?

A review of less-recognized adverse effects of these cholesterol-lowering drugs notes that peripheral neuropathy has been reported (American Journal of Cardiovascular Drugs, 2008).  The authors cite the Australian Adverse Drug Reaction Bulletin:

“Statin-associated peripheral neuropathy may persist for months or years after withdrawal of the statin…”

We are sending you our Guide to Cholesterol Control and Heart Health with a discussion of the pros and cons of statins as well as other approaches for promoting cardiovascular health. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (no. 10) stamped (71 cents), self-addressed envelope:

  • Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. C-8
  • P. O. Box 52027
  • Durham, NC 27717-2027.

It can also be downloaded for $2 from the website: www.peoplespharmacy.com.

Chris wrote about his experience with atorvastatin:

“I was a healthy and vibrant 34-year-old critical care RN. After taking atorvastatin I became like a patient with Alzheimer’s disease. I was unable to walk or talk coherently. An MRI showed dozens of lesions in the gray and white mater of my brain. A brain biopsy revealed, autophagic vacuoles (holes). Mitochondrial DNA mutation most closely resembling MELAS (Mitochondrial Encephalomyopathy with Lactic Acidosis and Stroke-like episodes.

“Muscle biopsy revealed similar findings. I did not improve until I was evaluated by a visiting professor, who suggested a mitochondrial cocktail (essentially 12 vitamins, amino acids and 1 key component, Ubiquinol aka coQ10). I improved to the point I could go home with aggressive rehab therapies: physical, occupational and speech.

“I have been unable to work in any capacity since 11/02. Neuropsych evaluation revealed “significant cognitive impairments, of severity to limit any substantial gainful employment.” One month post discharge, I enrolled in the UCSD statin effects study, where it was determined that Lipitor was the causal contributor to the holes in my brain, the mitochondrial DNA mutations and the peripheral neuropathy.”

Do Statins Cause Nerve Pain?

Most clinicians would say no. There is virtually nothing in the clinical trial data about peripheral neuropathy. This complication comes on slowly. If researchers are not looking for it patients might not report it. We have no idea how common this side effect might be. All we have is the FDA’s acknowledgement that peripheral neuropathy has been reported as a postmarketing adverse reaction.

What’s your experience? Please share your story in the comment section below.

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  1. Candice
    CT
    Reply

    Definitely have experienced enough pain on statins that the doctor tried me on 3 different statins, all with the same reaction. He never believed that I was experiencing pain, said the same thing, no clinical trial back up. However every time I went off the statins I felt better and every time I went on the statins – the pain. I went off of them for good, then my brother had to go on them And was experiencing pain and I told him to be aware that that may be the cause because we were genetically related and he could be having the same reaction as I.

  2. Alistair Stewart
    Aberdeenshire
    Reply

    never had pain till i took statins For the first year after stroke 80mg a day atorvostatin Pain so bad i reduced dosage down gradualy to 20mg a day which i know take daily Still got some pain left but not as much as before Coincidence or not i wouldnt like to say

  3. Robin B.
    25143
    Reply

    thank you for allowing me to comment. i had been on statins, and it looks like since open heart surgery 5 years ago, somewhere along the way, i must’ve stopped. two years ago i had a stent placement, thence more statins. I lost the energy and willpower to live, was not able to even take care of myself. tried to find out side effects of the medications i was taking, wasn’t much found for statins. as i kept complaining of my symptoms. a cardiologist advised me to try repatha, of course the insurance had to except, after a few months, they finally did agree to pay. seven months of repatha and i kept saying out loud i was dying. it physically felt like death. been statin free 8 months. i seem to have what a doctor would say is arthritis, but i do have arthritis, and this is not your normal arthritic pain, this is drug induced pain. i have had blood work done and everything comes out normal. i suffer from severe joint pain, muscle spasms of the feet and toes, foggy mornings after waking up which takes a couple hours to ‘come to life’, my skin looks like i have aged 10-15 years, memory problems, i have tingling, burning sensations, esp of the hands and feet, my sugar levels are elevated but not diabetic. aspirin, tylenol or hydrocodone does not relieve the symptoms. at one point, after reading about herbal supplements, coq10, so i started a regime of that and the pain got so bad, i stopped those as well just to see if it would subside. it did. i am dropping things, my little fingers are numb, little toes are numb. please. i know i am not the only one. we need help. these drugs need to be banned!!

  4. CBell
    ohio
    Reply

    I have read in numerous studies/articles that statins weaken the myelin sheath (which is at least partially made up of cholesterol) and/or strip nerves/axonal neurons of it. If that is true, then statins most definitely could cause peripheral neuropathy. Complaining to providers of any such symptoms is typically met with the line “statins don’t do that.” It’s no secret that lots of money is made from prescribing statins, both by drs. and drug companies. Until patients are actually treated with respect and listened to, no, statin side effects will be continued to be called “rare.” Those of us damaged by them (especially when prescribed the 80mg megadose of atorvastatin) know better.

  5. George
    Guilford County
    Reply

    I am puzzled as to why you did not cite the 2011 study done by Otruba, Kanovsky, and Hlustik that was published in PubMed. The conclusion in the abstract stated “The study confirmed that long-term treatment with statins caused a clinically silent but still definite damage to peripheral nerves when the treatment lasts longer than two years.”

  6. Miles D.
    OH
    Reply

    I was on 40mg of crestor for 12 yrs and had very well controlled numbers but the last 2 yrs 4 specialists diagnosed my limping and numbness on my left side as neuropathy but had no idea what the cause might be……after some search on various forums I found other people with similar symptoms that stopped their statins and were relieved of problem….and were told by their Drs that was not the problem.”joke from med school…..final speaker tells the graduating students that half of what we’ve taught you here in the future will turn out not be true, but the problem is we have no idea which half”

  7. Carol
    CO
    Reply

    When I had a ministroke (TIA/Transient Ischemic Attack) last September, a neurologist wanted me to take statins, due to (at that time) very high blood pressure, coupled with plaque in my carotid arteries. I said no, because, being a retired nurse (RN), I was aware of several adverse (bad) side effects of statins (such as muscle pain due to rhabdomyolysis, and PERIPHERAL NEUROPATHY, etc.) Instead, I went to my acupuncturist, who put me onto a Chinese herbal pill regimen, and my blood pressure plummeted the same evening I started that pill regimen (t.i.d./3 times in the day). My vertigo (from high blood pressure) also disappeared that very first day of taking the Chinese herbs. The “allopathic” medical profession really needs to learn what wasn’t in their medical books, from various alternative medicine sources, about safer alternatives to statins!

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