The People's Perspective on Medicine

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.

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

“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

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

“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.

I believe Lipitor is the cause of my mothers ALS. The drug companies are making too much money off the drugs and that is why they keep selling it. I think the elderly people are being taken advantage of sometimes.

I was taking Lipitor for about one year. it got me to the point that I colud
bearly walk. knee aching ,leg tried and memory loss

Bill: Our government has allowed any company to get rid of jobs here and go any where in the world that has no restrictions of any kind for the sake of MONEY. The middle class is gone because of this dilemma. Yes, it IS our government that is to blame ALONG with the money grabbing companies. They are in bed with each other and could care less about this countries situation. And that bed is lined with money, money, money for both.

Saying “the government has again failed us” is only valid under the premise that the pharmaceutical companies bear no responsibility here for penny-pinching profiteering by having their products made in Third World countries devoid of quality control and safety standards. So until the government steps in, these companies are free to act thus with impunity?
Criticizing government “failures” – real and contrived – is the tool of those politicians whose agenda is to weaken – not strengthen – the oversight of industry’s harm to the public, be it environmental, health, occupational safety, financial instruments or whatever interferes with corporations’ rights to make money. And let’s not forget due process here since corporations are considered “persons” with all attendant rights and privileges.
Let’s put the onus where it belongs – on the pharmaceutical industry.

I’d like to know if there are any doctors who are reading this information about statins? It seems to me that there might be a logical explanation to why some people are adversly affected and some people are not. Can it be in the physical make-up of each individual? I and my wife have been on them for years and have had none of the effects listed in the comments. But maybe we just don’t realize we are having some effects but they are not bad enough for us to notice. I was given a heart cath and he found two heart veins with 30 and 40 percent blockage but did not give me a stent [if thatt is the right spelling]. He told me to change my diet and I should be OK. I’m 76 years old and maybe it’s time to change my life style and get off all the pills and let nature take it’s course. Any suggestions, especially from doctors?????????????

I was on simvastatin for several years as well as my daughter, son, sister and niece. We all developed severe pains of one sort or another. My doctor told me that he would not drain my knee anymore and that it was time for knee replacement surgery. My daughter was about to have carpal tunnel surgery on both wrists. She suspected simvastatin and and quit taking it. Two weeks later her symptoms were gone. I then quit taking it and my knee problems went away. I have been off of the drug for 5 years and no symptoms have returned. My son, sister and niece have all quit and have had the same results. It seems as if all of my gene pool are allergic to this drug.

My blood was recently tested for cholesterol levels, etc. by a major drug company that manufactures choles meds, and this was supported by my doctor. The results were numbers that were elevated enough to suggest that I needed two of their drugs (which are priced thru the ceiling).
My thoughts are: does the doctor get an incentive from the drug company for placing his patient on their meds? Further, I question their total choles number (221) which was 209 when tested six months earlier by the doctor. Maybe we should all open our eyes and gamble on not taking these drugs if the total is not more than 239.

After I read these stories above, I looked at the links to PubMed and have spent 2 and a half hours looking over the data that is available. ALS or similar disease that would lead to upper and lower motor neuron death would be a very serious side effect of a medication. Current studies do not support a link, but the jury is definitely still out. If you are concerned, send a letter to your doctor and ask about it. I would give them the PubMed number of the third link above, since it is the most up-to-date – PMID: 23134508 – in that letter. I would recommend that a doctor prescribing statins read the article PMID: 21321346 too. I found Drs. Bowden and Sinatra’s show today (3/9) to be very compelling, so you might ask your doc to listen to it.
Hippocrates said, “Let food be your medicine.” The average American eats 0.7 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. We all need to eat fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and beans, limit foods from animals (rare to none?) and stop eating all processed foods (including the products of animals that eat processed foods) unless you have a specific medical condition requiring a special diet (e.g. epilepsy). Also, the most neglected body system is the musculoskeletal system; we were designed to be active all day long. There is so much talk about body mass and various lab values, etc. and these really shouldn’t replace the real issues, which are quality of life, cancer prevention, and heart and vessel disease prevention. If you feel, or are afraid, that your medicine is affecting your quality of life, please let your doctor know. Your doctor should be your partner in health, not your dictator; and I can attest that a written letter prior to your appointment is a gift to him or her.

Can anybody explain why give statins to a person that is 80 years old??? As if they needed protection against clogging in their arteries for the last 10% of their lives? With a cholesterol level that is borderline with normal… please, it’s just unnecessary medication. I am glad I have always rejected statins….
I agree, they killed this poor man. Sad.

My doctor had prescribed Lipitor for my slightly elevated colesterol levels. The drug company that we must use for insurance purposes changed this to a generic drug – Pravastatin. I had taken 80 mil. per day, as presided for over a year, but suddenly developed severe pains in my feet and legs at night, some numbness, and nightly leg and foot cramps. Since I had read about all the negative effects of statins, I stopped taking it.
It took a couple of weeks, but finally the pain and cramps went away. Although my doctor denies it could be the pravastatin, I will not take any more. I’d rather just try to eat well and take my chances!

My Doctor had proscribed ZOCAR in 2002 because my cholesterol LDL was 215. I took them for about two years and my LDL remained the same. My health insurance then sent me simivistatin as a replacement as they no longer supply the name brand. After another year my cholesterol was still unchanged. I began to have sore calves that seemed to be constant.
I have been doing supervised weight training since about 1996 and would have sore muscles for a day or two after each workout. but the calf muscle pain was similar but didn’t go away. Since muscle pain was listed as a “side affect” and I was not taking any other drugs and my orchestral wasn’t changing, I quit taking the statin. It took several weeks before the pain went away in 2005. I still do supervised weight training with the same soreness of all my muscles for a day or two following each workout.
My present doctor considers statins to be a fraud and cause much more harm that any possible benefit. His advice is if your HDL is high enough to be within normal ranges it doesn’t make much difference what the LDL is within limits. 600 should be treated with diet not medications. I’m turning 75 next month and am in pretty good health even though I’m overweight not obese but I admit that the fat is in the wrong places.

I notice that all the TV commercials for drugs that were going to protect women from osteoporosis are no longer on TV. Drugs like Fosamax and others caused so many problems that finally doctors woke up and started taking women off of them. I predict the same will eventually happen with statins. Most cardiologists would add statins to our water if they could. Mine says side effects are exaggerated. I don’t know whether to continue taking Lipitor or not. I don’t really see the point of reducing my LDL down to 50. It seems like overkill. No pun intended.

My husband take Red Yeast Rice supplement to help lower cholesterol. I know this is considered a “natural” statin. He does occasionally have muscle aches and pains in legs and arms but we contributed it to his job as appliance repairman. Is this supplement possibly causing this also and would we be wise to stop taking it due to the overwhelming evidence about ALS being caused by statins?
PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE: Red yeast rice can cause muscle aches and pains just as prescription statins do, although it is less common as a side effect. It is entirely possible that your husband’s sore muscles might be exacerbated by red yeast rice. The connection between statins and ALS is still highly controversial, so there’s no need to assume that his use of red yeast rice would result in ALS.

Note: the doctors who push continuance of statin treatment after complaints always say the benefits are greater than the risks. Therefore we should all try to understand the “benefits”. Listen closely to this week’s podcast. You will hear that these 2 experts believe there is no benefit whatsoever to giving statins to women. You will also hear that the only men who might benefit from statins are middle aged men (not elderly) who have clear clinical heart problems. Restated: they believe unless you are a middle aged man with certain clear heart problems you derive no benefit from a statin and shouldn’t be taking them, irrespective of “high” cholesterol. Remember their book is The Cholesterol Myth.

Respondents seemed to miss an important point in the article, that Lipitor has been known to cause symptoms that are *mistaken for” or “identical to” ALS. Wouldn’t it be a good idea to stop taking the drug if such symptoms appear, whatever an uninformed doc says?

I had a stroke (40% blockage) about 3 weeks ago, and still in the process of recovering. One of the drugs I was given after my stroke was generic Lipitor. I am very sensitive to most drugs, so when I started feeling worse, I looked up side effects of this drug and stopped using it immediately.
You are so right, doctors tend to ignore side effects and usually will tell patients that these will diminish as your body gets used to the drug. Not so. I was given Albuterol 0.5 mg over a year ago, developed severe thrush immediately, even though I was conscientious about rinsing my mouth after every use. Was given meds for it and the Thrush went away, but I was left with a sore tongue, mouth, throat and stomach all present to this day. I cannot eat anything spicy or even use the regular brands of toothpaste, because I immediately get pain, swelling and soreness of my mouth, throat, and stomach. I also suffered from headaches, which were intermittent in nature, but increasingly got worse, until I woke up one morning with the worst headache I’ve had in my life, and unable to do something that is second nature to me … type. I could not even tie my shoes or anything that required typing a bow. I was taken by ambulance to hospital, and tests confirmed I had had a stroke.
I am now a high risk for getting more strokes, am on hypertension meds, and a med to help prevent further strokes.
Don’t trust what doctors tell you, research it. Ask others on the internet who are taking the same drug and suffering side effects.

It’s too gradual to notice that these drugs are causing until it’s too late. . I thought I had acid reflux. . Three months later I could not swallow. Diagnosed Als

This is very sad…Most doctors, whom people trust with their lives, do not know this very real and potential risk of statin drugs, even when there is a plethora of information which corroborates the notion that statin drugs may increase the risk of ALS or an ALS type disorder. Dr Golomb sent me her study data on the relationship between Statins and ALS.

My physician pushed me to take simvastatin poison for several years. Now, I suffer from vascular parkinsonism, diabetes 2, and peripheral neuropathy. Doctors insist on our taking this stuff and Big Pharma makes billions. The cost must be incalculable, Certainly, I won’t ever be able to walk properly again. All because of statins.

What I get from this is that statins can be a problem for the older set. I’m 72 and I know that I can’t take statins… I thought that co q 10 was a help but I think that it just moderates the damage.. I am trying chia seeds and I can breath better and the pain is all but gone
I think that my doctor is wholly owned by the drug companies (but happy).
Jim

I have a problem with all this information about statins. There must be millions of people taking these drugs and have no bad side effects at all. OR, if they do , they don’t blame the drug because it isn’t bad enough for them to complain about it. What I really don’t like is ANY type drugs being made if foreign countries.
There is NO WAY they are being monitored as should be done. How can we expect INDI to do ANYTHING for us in this type of field?
Once again, our government has failed us, as usual. ALL FOR THE SAKE OF MONEY!

My mother died at age 80 from ALS in 2003. She was the healthiest woman I have ever known, staying active all of her life–every morning doing floor exercises and walking outdoors. The times I remember her being sick would, maybe, fill the fingers on one hand—that even includes a cold.
Within a couple of years of taking medication to lower her cholesterol she became sick and it took a month or two for her doctors to figure out she had ALS. She died quickly.
It has always been a mystery to my sisters and to me what could have caused her ALS, now I believe this might be the reason. Thank you and to the others for sharing this information.

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