Q. My wife took Lipitor to lower her cholesterol. When her legs began to hurt, she quit taking it. She still couldn’t ride the mower, one of her pleasures.
She was diagnosed with ALS and passed away less than a year later. I lost the most precious person in my life after 31 years of marriage.
I am convinced that the drug she took led to her ALS. I lost my job and our home because I was taking care of her full time before she died. I am concerned that others may not realize some of these statin drugs could be deadly.
A. We are so sorry to learn of your loss. The possible connection between statin cholesterol-lowering drugs and ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) is extremely controversial (Drug Safety, Aug. 2009). Although the FDA received reports of statin-associated ALS in its Adverse Event Reporting System, the agency determined that clinical trials of statin drugs did not show an excess of ALS cases (Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety, Nov. 2008).
The People’s Pharmacy has become a clearing house for hundreds of stories about ALS and statins. This is not scientific, but some of these case reports are incredibly compelling. Here is a link to hundreds of posts. You will also find a link to an interview with Ralph Edwards, MD, Director of the World Health Organization’s drug-monitoring center in Uppsala, Sweden about a link between statins and ALS-like syndrome.
Physicians are becoming more cautious about prescribing these medications. Steven Nissen, MD, chair of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, told us these drugs should be reserved for patients with heart disease or those at high risk because of diabetes, hypertension or other conditions.
You can listen to our one-hour interview (#851 at PeoplesPharmacy.com) with Dr. Nissen, Dr. Beatrice Golomb of the University of California, San Diego and Lisa Gill of Consumer Reports on the pros and cons of statins. We discuss ways other than statins to reduce the risk of heart disease in our Guide to Cholesterol Control & Heart Health.