Doctors love Lipitor. Last year this cholesterol-lowering drug was the single most prescribed brand-name medicine in the country. Over 50 million prescriptions were filled.
Doctors also loved Vytorin. Almost 20 million prescriptions were dispensed for this cholesterol drug. When you add these medications to other statin-type medicines like simvastatin, lovastatin, pravastatin, Crestor and Lescol the total number of bottles purchased exceeded 150 million.
Many physicians see statins as a magic bullet for high cholesterol. Even if patients cheat and eat burgers or steak, their cholesterol levels often stay under control.
Unfortunately, these highly effective medications have some serious drawbacks. They can cause severe muscle pain and weakness. These are recognized complications of statins, but too often physicians fail to mention these side effects.
The Web site www.iGuard.org recently surveyed its members. Approximately 40 percent of the 100 participants questioned reported experiencing muscle pain and weakness. Fewer than half had been warned of this side effect by their physicians.
It can be very frustrating for patients when doctors don’t take their symptoms seriously. One reader reported: “I was diagnosed with high cholesterol and put on Crestor. At the follow-up I was put on an arthritis drug to help with the sudden joint pain. I told the doctor I felt like I was 80. I was really in my late 30’s, very active and healthy–biking, hiking and walking.
“Before the Crestor prescription ran out, I was miserable with severe muscle pain in my joints, legs, arms and a severe hip pain that required shots. I couldn’t get my prescription filled right away after it expired, and while I waited I started to feel better with each passing day. I called the doctor and left a message but I never heard back from him. Two weeks later when I called for my medical records so I could go somewhere else, the office was shocked that I didn’t want to return to their care.
“Eventually I went to another physician. I explained I wanted no statins because my last experience was so bad. He convinced me to take Vytorin. I used it and didn’t even see the train coming. My vision got bad, my memory was shot, and I couldn’t speak without being laughed at because I sounded like a mental case.
“When my Vytorin prescription expired I forgot to refill it in time and the doctor screwed up the refill to the pharmacy. I started to feel better not taking it. I read up about the side effects of Vytorin and was not surprised to learn that my body is still intolerant of statin drugs, no matter what the name.”
Vytorin contains simvastatin. Like other statin drugs, it can cause muscle problems. People who cannot tolerate such drugs need different alternatives. We offer a variety of non-drug approaches as well as medicines other than statins to help control cholesterol and improve heart health in our book, Best Choices From The People’s Pharmacy. It is available from libraries and bookstores or online at this website.
People who would like personalized information about the specific risks, benefits and interactions of their drugs will find it at www.iGuard.org.