The People's Perspective on Medicine

Do Statins Cause Nerve Pain (Neuropathy)?

Statins are among the most prescribed drugs in the world. Do such medications cause nerve pain (peripheral neuropathy)? Most experts say no. Are there data?

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.

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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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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 absolutely 100% believe that the pain in my quads and calves was caused by statin medication. I’ve been on several statins, and they all have the same effect. I am a former athlete, and I never had a problem with leg pain until I started with the statins. My physcian did not believe me and urged me to continue with the statins. I sincerely believe that the damage in my leg muscles is now permanent, but I am working with moderate resistance weight exercises to try and eradicate/repair the damage.

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.

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

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!!

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.

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.”

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”

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!

My peripheral neuropathy was hardly noticeable while I was taking simvastatin, but a year after I quit the drug, it felt as if I had something stuck to bottom of my right foot. At the time, an EMG and nerve conduction study showed that I had polyneuropathy. Now, almost 7 years later, my PN extends up to my knees and I have no reflexes in my knees. It was suggested that I may have chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy. I need further testing, but I can’t find a neurologist who is willing to do this. As soon as I mention my statin experience, it seems that I become a medical pariah. The last neurologist I consulted unflinchingly told me that my PN was idiopathic.

We must consider how clinical trials are conducted if we are to evaluate the effectiveness and safety of a drug. In the case of statins, the older trials are not available for independent analysis. The details of how they were conducted are not known or if run-in periods were used, excluding certain participants, especially those prone to adverse effects. Sometimes trials are only done for limited number of months or years that don’t correspond to how they are prescribed.

Absolutely, statins cause side effects! I had to take 400 mg. of CoQ10 to off-set the pains, unaware that the statins were also doing a number on my brain. A doctor told me to stop the statins, but another doctor said to take them again. Within two weeks after starting them again, I could hardly remember my name.

Before starting statin drugs many years ago, I did not have trouble with my legs. Shortly after starting the first one, I developed severe pain in my hip joints, so bad that it felt like my hips were “rusted” after walking only a few steps. I also had other muscle pain. I thought I would need a wheelchair soon. I stopped that drug, and my legs returned to normal.

My doctor later prescribed a total of 6 other statin drugs, each of which caused the same leg pain. I now do not take statin drugs but have been left with continual leg muscle and joint pain. I use ice and heat, massage, ibuprofen, and herbs to try to alleviate my misery. I have been to acupuncturists, rheumatologists, massages, orthopedists, vein specialists, on and on. The sad part about this is that the statin drugs never reduced my cholesterol. I now use a product with Bergamonte, Policosanol and PQQ. My cholesterol fell from 249 to 179 in six months.

One statin I took caused pain and stiffness. The second statin caused no side effects. This is the reason I distrust what research seems to say. If the research shows a problem, I fear that it never sees the light of day.

When I got up this morning my feet were like pins and needles and I said to my wife would you stretch my legs out because my feet are numb again. I’ve been on simvastatin for very long time like 25 years and although my cholesterol now looks normal the neuropathy in my feet continues to increase and I’m wondering how I trade a healthier life for a long life not sure what to do with it and I’m not even sure that they sell car is the problem and when I cut the dosage of Zocor way down for a while then neuropathy seem to like nothing but now it’s back even at the low Zocor dose

In February my doctor put me in Atorvastatin 20 mg. as a preventive measure even though I have never had cholesterol problems. She also told me to start taking Co Q-10 daily. Shortly after starting the Atorvastatin all my joints became so painful that I could no longer be active. In April I stopped the prescription and have been doing so much better. I now have had neck pain for a week that would hurt on one side on one day and then the other side. Heat and tylenol have helped some. After a week my neck is much better. I’m not certain if the neck pain is related but I know the joint pain was caused by the Atorvastatin.

My wife has taken Lipitor for a number of yrs, and some of the changes she has observed involve sluggish feeling in mornings when she always was full of energy. Now she’s lucky if she’s up and starting day at 10 a.m. She has aches in areas of mostly right side front just below shoulder and random pain. She developed increased blood sugar level and now has medication for that. Diet to combat the rise of sugar level has had partial success.

We both eat same foods yet I have attempted to avoid all medications and rely upon diet, exercise and supplements similar to what the listing on Centrum Silver lists on label. My efforts reversed some early indications of high blood pressure and elevated blood sugar in the range called borderline diabetic. My past two annual physicals show no need for prescribed medications. I wish to add that I was a heavy smoker 18 yrs ago. Our weight seems to remain fairly constant. My wife has weighed 150 since we got married in 1973 . Steady weight seems to us to be a sign of good health. I am ashamed to admit my own weight has crept up to 175. I’d be happy to return to my 160 level. Parting thought: rise in sugar level might play a role in the nerve pain issue. Just my suspicion.

I know they cause nerve pain. In my 50’s but felt like I was 90. My feet and legs both. I went off my cholesterol medicine and found relief. My doctor was so surprised I did this. I told him if you had this pain you would do it as well. He has me on another one now which I’ve taken for 3 months. Some sharp stabs in my big toe for now. I will watch it carefully and maybe have to switch around from time to time in order for the pain to stay away. My mom has the same exact pain and is on the same medicine. That’s really rough because she is in A-fib and has a pace maker. So it makes things much harder for her to just stop taking Symvastin. She is 88. Strokes in her family. But I hate that she has so much pain in her feet and legs burning stabbing pain, all the time. Her feet are hot but feel as though they are freezing cold. We do need further research on these products.

I was an athletic man when first prescribed Pravastatin on general principles. I stopped it after 13 days when I noticed my cycling speed over my weekly 25-mile course had dropped by about 20%. Then a number of events precluded paying much attention to it until 1 1/2 year later, when I was prescribed Rosuvastatin prior to bypass surgery. That was stopped after 5 months when severe muscle weakness developed. Now, a year later, I am severely disabled, with a diagnosis of “Substantial chronic progressive sensory motor [sic?] axonal polyneuropathy of unclear cause.” Big Medicine and Big Pharma may think it’s unclear, but I will always believe it was the statin.

I took statins for around 14 years. Over that time I developed leg muscle problems and neuropathy in the bottom of my feet. I stopped taking my statin due to leg muscle problems against the advice of my doctors. Muscle problems have improved but so has the neuropathy, a result not anticipated. About 2 months after stopping statins I occasionally felt like I was walking on a spongy rubber pad when I was walking on concrete. Some feeling was coming back in the bottom of my feet, and the spongy feeling began to occur more frequently, presumably from feeling feet tissue compress as I walked. I am less aware of that sensation now (1.5 years later) as I continue to improve. My balance has improved too since I have another sensor (my feet) providing input.

My good friend and neighbor went to his grave believing that the Lipitor he had been taking for a long time caused the Parkinson’s disease that oh-so-slowly took his life. He would not call it Parkinson’s; he called it a “movement disorder” or a “Parkinson’s-like” disease.

After much research on the many serious side effects of statins I basically told my doctor I was taking myself off statins after 20+ years on them, due to the side effects. The foot pain and tingling that I’d been having every evening and in bed at night for many months went away after about two months and have not returned. In my mind I am certain that statins caused the neuropathy. That being said, the other side effects are potentially far more serious than what I experienced.

I experienced a tingling sensitivity to the slightest touch (even my t-shirt) almost to the point of pain in my lower trunk. It moved to my upper trunk then to my back, then my shoulder blade area, and eventually went away.

The doctor first thought it was shingles but no rash or redness occurred. The doctor then suspected it may be nerve related. I had brain scans, blood tests, cervical MRI but the doctor was never able to explain what it was. It went on for over a month.

I have been taking statins for years.

My wife, about 60 years old, was prescribed Lipitor. After a few months she developed peripheral neuropathy in both feet. Over time the neuropathy progressed up her legs to her knees. Against the recommendations of her doctor she discontinued Lipitor and is now addressing the problem only with diet and pure EPA prescription Omega-3. Numbers have come down some but she is still working on it. Over time since stopping the Lipitor the neuropathy has subsided now to just her big toes. She has no doubt the neuropathy came from taking Lipitor.

I started talking Lipitor about 25 years ago when in my 40s and continued taking it until a year ago. I am now 71 and have been suffering with peripheral neuropathy for at least 5 years. I am not diabetic, I exercise, and my body weight is in the middle of the recommended range. My doctor has no explanation for the neuropathy.

I used to take atorvastatin but stopped because the muscles in my upper arms were very painful. At the time, there was an article, on-line and in the newspaper, written by cardiologists, saying that it is better for a patient to have muscle pains than to have high cholesterol. This did not make sense to me. I’ve been watching my diet – no drugs for me.

I take Pravastatin. I stopped it once, then went back on it, but not every day. Then I started taking it every day or 5 to 7 days a week. The more I take I have now developed numbness, tingling, and pain in both arms and hands and my other leg and foot. It is interfering with my ability to function. Even though I take 300mg. of Neurontin three times a day for neuropathy in one leg and foot, it does not help.

I had permission to decrease a higher dosage of Neurontin because it made me sluggish, and I had memory problems. I am reluctant to increase the dosage, but I will check with my doctor about this new development before I do. I did start taking Benfotiamine and r-lipoic acid to replace the lesser amounts of Neurontin after hearing about it on People’s Pharmacy. I am not a diabetic.

Taking atorvastatin and after a few years my right upper arm has definitely been affected.

Soon after I started taking Lipitor I started feeling it’s side effects: Pain of all muscles in my body, I felt very tired and sleepy all the time. And next I started having difficulties to find words when talking; my memory was very very fogy and I started worry about getting Alzheimer’s. Then a friend of mind told me that her husband had same symptoms after taking statins. Very gradually I started lowering my Lipitor medication down to zero, and gradually, within a few weeks, I was back to myself. No more statins for me. As I said to my doctor: I would rather die some year earlier living a normal life then living like a zombie a few more years.

I had heart bypass surgery 20 years ago. After that my cardiologist was aggressive at lowering my small particle size LDL with a combination of drugs. (Lipitor, carvedilol, ramipril, plavix, niaspan and omega 3s). Within a year, I had developed a neuropathy which continues today. I cannot say statins caused the neuropathy. However it seems as if something from the surgery and the drug treatments triggered the neuropathy.

I was prescribed Lipitor for high cholestrol. After about two years I was changed to Atorvastatin. After taking it for several years I developed neuropathy in both my feet. It hurt so much, like they were encased in a block of ice. I now have to take Neurontin for the pain. I gradually stopped taking Atorvastatin after reading in several places that it could damage my heart. My doctor has never tried to find out what caused my neuropathy. I am now in the process of trying to withdraw from Neurontin and just let my feet hurt. I have discovered medicine is worse than the disease.
Sunshine

I took Lipitor to control high cholesterol, and it did so. But within a year, I began to have pain in my shoulder and clavicle. The doctor insisted it could not be caused by the drug, but was arthritis. Xrays and MRIs showed nothing amiss. I discontinued the drug, and within weeks the pain disappeared. Have since tried lovastatin and rosuvastatin and found similar reactions. ( I admit I was on the lookout.)

My Doctor put me on Lipitor many years ago. My legs ached every day and I thought it was my job on my feet. I read an article that suggested that it caused leg pain. I stopped cold turkey, and in two days the pain was gone. When I told Dr. I had quit he nearly had a spasm that I should have tapered off. I said well it’s too late as I quit three weeks ago. He put me on Flaxseed and fish oil instead. It costs more because insurance paid a good amount on the lipitor but I don’t ache like I used to and my cholesterol stays at a good level.

After years of resisting doctor’s suggestions, I began Lipitor daily. I was completely healthy, age 60, taking no pharma. After 6 months I suddenly developed neuropathy in my right foot which quickly spread throughout both legs within days. I immediately stopped the Lipitor, and the neuropathy halted its progression. Two years later, and I still deal with numb toes, although other symptoms have reversed. This appears to be the best result I can expect. According to my doctors, the cause is most certainly statin-induced neuropathy. For them, the link is certain. They see it all the time.

I was on blood thinners for seven years. I was so cold during that time I couldn’t feel my feet or legs. Now got Neuropathy. Warfarin and Synthroid prescribed. I don’t take any now as I got advanced Osteoporosis in my spine resulting in 15 spinal wedge fractures in 2016. Those drugs are a definite no no for anyone with OP.

I had constant shoulder pain for several years.I learned to live with it. I was told it was from bursitis and arthritis. I then developed A-Fib and was given 80 mg of atorvastatin daily. When I asked why, since I always had outstanding cholesterol, I was told it would help my heart.

Then my shoulder pain got so bad that I couldn’t sleep at night. I started skipping one to take it every other day, and shoulder became less painful. When I told the cardiologist, he wasn’t happy. I asked him to prescribe something else so now I take 20mg of Pravastatin daily. Guess what? Now I sleep without shoulder pain most nights.

I research every medicine my husband and I are prescribed. If the side effects are horrible I refuse to take it and ask for another one.

Statins have always caused me to feel like I have the flu. I cannot take them and now take Omega-3 with ethyl esters as well as fiber supplements. Cholesterol was down to 140 at last check. Down from over 200.

Lipitor absolutely contributed to my neuropathy. I was in such agony I could not walk for 23 days.
Many patients who experience statin-related neuropathy also have diabetic issues. My internist agreed that far-too many pain-related statin cases aren’t reported and that the stain manufactures themselves are determined to distort & diminish stain-concerns for extreme nerve damage.

Yes, I developed muscle pain in my legs and feet and felt older than my years after being on Lipitor. It was difficult to keep up my active lifestyle. I told my new doctor that I would much rather have high cholesterol and be able to move! She agreed that according to my Framingham score, which takes into account other variables, statins were not indicated for me. Happily, the pain has gone, and I’m back to being as active as I want to be.

A relative of mine was put on a statin and within 6 weeks quit it because of numbness and pain in his feet. His neurologist told him the statin caused it and railed against the doc who put someone with a total cholesterol of almost 120 on a statin to begin with. The neuropathy is permanent, and he has been living with it for years now.

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