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Did Lipitor (Atorvastatin) Trigger Lou Gehrig’s Disease?

Q. At age 80 my father in-law was told he had to take Lipitor (atorvastatin) because his cholesterol was 212. (200 is the recommended max.) He took it for one year. He started to get weakness in his right side. Up to that time he as was avid golfer and still played 18 holes every week or two.

His weakness quickly spread and he was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease. Doing some research, I found it is almost unheard-of for someone his age to get Lou Gehrig’s. Looking into it further, I found that statins can cause muscle damage beyond a point which is reversible. I also found that the symptoms of this damage can be indistinguishable from Lou Gehrig’s.

The Mayo Clinic site had info about this as did other reputable sites. My father-in-law’s weakness progressed rapidly over a few months and he needed a feeding tube. Shortly after that procedure he was given morphine (he had no pain), and Haldol (haloperidol) an anti-hallucinogen (he was confused from the morphine). Soon after those drugs were given he was admitted to hospice where they kept giving him those drugs, then added more drugs and he died.

In my opinion, the drug companies killed my father-in-law with statins, then finished him off with Haldol and morphine and other drugs.
Doctors ignore patient after patient who complain about drug side effects.

A. You are not the first person to tell us that a relative developed ALS (also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s disease) after taking statin-type cholesterol-lowering drugs. Although the FDA has studied this issue and declared that there is no real relationship between statins and ALS, a very high-level executive within the FDA has admitted to us that they are taking this concern “seriously.” We don’t know if that means they are actually researching it further or just trying to placate us.

Here are links to some studies. They all call for more research:

As of today we would have to say that there are no clear studies about a relationship between statins and ALS, but we have received so many reports on our website that we cannot completely discount such an association. Here are some links you may want to check out.

Here are some stories that have broken our hearts:

“I retired from FedEx as a courier of 22 years at age 55. I have had two very physical jobs since age 16. In Jan. of 2012 my doctor felt it necessary to put me on generic Lipitor (atorvastatin) manufactured by Ranbaxy of India. I was active and in generally good health…weighing 180 pounds at a height just under 6 feet.

“After one month of use I developed muscle cramps in my calves. I took myself off the drug for a month while waiting to see my doctor. The cramps went away. He felt the benefits outweighed the risks. I went back on from March until September when I noticed muscle fasciculations in my left shoulder muscle which rapidly spread throughout my body below my neck.

“I saw a neurologist for an EMG and full spinal MRI on Oct.1st. Bloodwork was fine. I was told I had definite nerve and muscle damage. A second EMG was scheduled for Dec.10th. By then I was experiencing severe occasional cramping along with the fasciculations that are constant. I was also suffering major gait disturbances.

“I was diagnosed with ALS. It is now early January and I can only walk short distances. I am deteriorating at a fairly fast pace.

“Last summer I was playing recreational softball, tennis, cycling, and hiking locally. Now I am apparently in the process of dying.

“I have leftover atorvastatin from this company in India that has a history of problems with the FDA. I would love to find a lab willing to test it. I am CONVINCED this drug is responsible for my ALS. I would also volunteer for any testing to confirm a link between this horrible drug and ALS. Thank You.”

Tom O.

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“We had a very good friend, our age and healthy as a horse. He did however, have elevated choleserol and was put on statins–Lipitor. It did not take long about 1-2 years and he developed some numbness, later to be diagnosed with Lou Gehrigs, ALS.

“He lasted about 1 year from the initial onset of symptoms which got progressively worse to the point he could not move any body part on his own will. He died, and we will never forget our dear friend and how these drugs killed him.

“We have NO doubt that the drugs did this. Research is out there, and likely be paid off not to come forth. Drugs are BIG money, bigger than life in this case.”

MJMC

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“My husband died in 1999 of ALS. He had been taking Pravachol for about a year when he was diagnosed. He was a physician, and he immediately wondered if there was a connection with the statin drug. He stopped taking it and contacted the pharmaceutical company which made the drug. He was told there was no evidence the drug was associated with ALS.

“He died 10 months after diagnosis, much sooner than we expected.”

PW

++++++++++++++++++++++++

“My wife took Lipitor 7 months in 2008 and then her legs began to hurt and she was sleeping more often. She quit taking Lipitor but she could not ride to mow grass which she enjoyed. Then first of 2009 she developed ALS. She passed on on Nov. 26 Thanksgiving day 2009. I lost my most precious person of 31 yrs of marriage.

“In our area people are getting ALS and not lasting a year and they have taken statin drugs which some people can not take. They don’t know that they have taken a drug that will kill them. Now I have lost my job because I took care of her. I also lost our house. I am living with a friend.

“My wife passed on and then I have been dropped in a different world.”

Perry

These stories are terribly tragic. And we have collected hundreds of similar stories on our website. The FDA and many researchers believe this is all coincidence. They may be right…or we could be sitting on a time bomb. Only time will tell.

If you would like to learn more about this statin story, we suggest two of our books. We go into great detail about the pros and cons of statins in Best Choices From The People’s Pharmacy. You will also learn about memory problems linked to drugs like atorvastatin, lovastatin, pravastatin and simvastatin. Some of these stories are incredible.

Here is a link to other books from The People’s Pharmacy that have dealt with heart health and statin side effects. And don’t forget to tune in to our radio show this Saturday or the podcast of the show that will become available on Monday. It is called:

The Great Cholesterol Myth

Share your statin story below. We would like to hear both the pros as well as the cons when it comes to this class of medications.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
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I don’t know whether atorvastatin is to blame or not but I was on it for 2 years and began to get muscle weakness in one leg and foot drop. I discontinued its use and have been diagnosed as a non-classic ALS, still suffering the same symptoms and some in the right arm as well. I don’t know if will get better with some drug treatment.

As a nurse I was aware of statins causing side effects. After my cholesterol went up I was put on atorvastatin. I took it for about 1 month as stopped immediately as the side effect cause severe muscle and bone pain. This nasty drug needs to be off the market in any form. I still have neck stiffness and pain . Praying this will go away. I’m not a fan of pharmaceuticals selling people up the river for profit! Too bad

Seven years ago my father also passed away from ALS and he was convinced it was as a result of having taken Lipitor. He was 76 years old but had been in great shape and still played tennis avidly one year earlier. He chose not to go on a respirator, so he went pretty quickly.

I also have high cholesterol and have chosen, as a result of his experience, and in case there’s a genetic predisposition, to not go on a statin. I keep my cholesterol in check by taking Niasafe (Niacin, without the harmful substance), and was able to reduce it from 260 to 185. Merck doesn’t want anyone to know about this simple vitamin, that is just as effective in treating high cholesterol, because it’s not patentable, and won’t make them any money.

It’s about time the families of statin induced ALS victims band together and create a class action suit to hold these pharmaceutical companies accountable. Easy for them to get away with it, when the victims are going to die shortly anyway. My father was an attorney and spent quite a bit of his time, after diagnosis, lobbying for warning labels, similar to the Surgeon General warning on cigarettes. People have a right to know the truth and be warned about these potential deadly side effects.

I have been taking Pravastatin for about 7 years and just recently found out that these statins have been the reason I have been having muscle pains and horrible leg cramps that keep me up half the night and make my calves hurt for days. I tried everyone’s advice, eat banannas, Potassium Supplements, Magnesium supplements, Leg Cramp Relief pills (I am doing all of these at once right now) nothing works for me. I want to stop the statin but need help with some other way of reducing Cholesterol. Anyone have ideas, I could use your help. Thanks…CD

NIACIN

My mother in law after using Lipitor for seven years when she was 75 got ALS. She was very active. Her cholesterol was a bit over 200. Usually the people over seventy do not get ALS. Before she sat on the wheelchair doctor did not take her off from Lipitor. She does not have any family ALS history. Now she is losing her hands movement.
Unfortunately Medical Doctors are not taking this situation seriously. I used to take Lipitor myself. After five years I started to get Cramps on my both calf, it was so bad that I could not walk. My cardiologist was telling me to get potassium supplements and eat at least 2 bananas every day. Following my Doctor’s order did not help me.
I told my Doctor no matter what happens to me I am not taking Lipitor any more period. I would rather die than suffering from severe muscle cramps. I have lost noticeable mass of my muscles. I have not been taking Lipitor during the last 4 years. This happened to me before my mother in law was diagnosed with ALS.
Whenever you think that the Doctor prescribed medication is giving you severe problem, you should stop taking that medication. It is interesting that couple of times I had to give my cardiologist print out from the latest available information in cardiology field. As a patient you should always study about your disease and medications that you are taking. I hope there will be some unbiased research about Lipitor complications.

My dad was 60 when he was diagnosed with ALS. Before the diagnosis, he was very active (in mind and body), never smoked, never drank to excess…but he was told by his doctor that his chloresterol was high and began taking statins, and a year later, he had ALS. Statins were the ONLY medication he ever used in his life.
For such a “rare” disease, it’s amazing how many people I’ve met personally who either have/had ALS or have/had close friends and family with this truly devastating disease. Is the rise in cases of ALS coinciding with the increase in statin use? Other than a few websites and blogs, it appears no one is seriously looking at this connection.

I tried taking statins for cholesterol. I would start on Monday. If by Friday I was having cramps in my legs I would quit taking it. I had a doctor he got mad at me because I told him I wouldn’t take it if it caused health problems. I quit going to that doctor. I found myself another doctor, that went along with my decision. A nurse told me one time: “You don’t have to take all the pills the doctor gives you.” I am almost 79 years old and feel great. I take a diuretic for high blood pressure, that is all.
No problems. E.V.

I have been taking 80mgm lipitor (atorvastatin) for about 10 years, before that I was on lower doses. 13 years ago I had 99% blockage of the LAD. My cholestrol level was 288 average. I have no illusions I am alive today because of statins. My total C level is 140, Ldl 62. Luckily I have had no side effects. It is easy to attribute other problems to the drugs you take eg I sometimes get violent night cramp, but so did my mother and she never took a statin.
About 15 million Americans take statins, about 2 people in 100,000 get Lou Gehrig’s annually. Therefore you would expect 300 of those taking statins to get LG disease in any given year just statistically. So we shouldn’t be surprised if we know somebody who gets it, although I hope some one is tracking the incidence.
If you have hi cholesterol and get side effects from your statin, get your doctor to try a different one. I know people who couldn’t tolerate zocor but were OK with lipitor. Think very carefully before giving up completely.

Just for the record it is contrary to the official drug guidelines to increase anyone’s dosage of this drug to 80mg. The guidelines permit one already on this drug at the 80mg. dosage to stay on it.

My husband is 71 and his doctor recently increased his simvastatin dosage to 80mg. He has began to experience muscle pain and fatigue throughout his body. It has gotten so severe that he is only able to move from the bed to the chair. I found this website and suspected it could be the simvastatin. After a call to the doctor, he has been taken off the drug and is very slowly recovering his strength. I feel this is a dangerous drug.

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