The People's Perspective on Medicine

Statins And Lou Gehrig’s Disease?

Q. My mother was on Lipitor for less than two years when she developed muscle weakness and started having trouble speaking. She was initially diagnosed with primary lateral sclerosis and told to continue on her Lipitor.

Her condition deteriorated rapidly and she ended up confined to a wheelchair and unable to speak. She passed away in July at the age of 57 from ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease.

I truly believe this was brought on by Lipitor and was fascinated to read of a connection in your column. She was in vibrant good health until she started the Lipitor and it was the only drug she ever took.

A. We are indeed sorry to learn of your mother’s death. Scientists have not yet determined whether cholesterol-lowering drugs such as Lipitor, Crestor or Zocor can actually trigger motor neuron diseases like primary lateral sclerosis (PLS) or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

In a previous column, we reported that the World Health Organization drug-monitoring center had found an unexpected association between statins and ALS-like syndrome (Drug Safety, June 2007). Since that time, we have received dozens of heartbreaking stories similar to yours. Many people were diagnosed with PLS after developing severe muscle weakness or cramping on cholesterol-lowering drugs. This condition is not considered fatal but it can be incapacitating.

Others report symptoms such as stumbling, falling, slurring speech or having difficulty swallowing after taking the statin-type cholesterol-lowering medicines. In many instances, the condition was diagnosed as ALS. There is no cure for this disease that causes degeneration of muscles and nerves.

Such reactions may be reported on this website, where more details are available. We will forward case reports to researchers and the FDA for further review.

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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 was on Lipitor to help control my cholestrol, which was not working. Dr. took me of Liptor and put me on Baycol. This happened in 2000. I was on Baycol for about 2 weeks, fell on floor could not get up without assistance. Called Dr. told him what happened, he told me to stop and that he would send me something else, he did a lower dose of Baycol, I did not take it.

To this day I can not take any thing for cholesterol, I have tried them all. Now I finally got my diagnose of a MND-PLS. I think the Baycol triggered the MND.

Baycol was taken off the market in 2001 because it was much more likely than other statins to cause serious muscle complications.

My husband was on statins Cresta and liptor at different times he has been diagnosed with MND

My husband has motor neuron disease after taking Lipitor. He is totally incapacitated. He had NO family history.

My sister took PravaStatin and now has been diagnosed with LG disease, She has lost all muscles usage to swallow where it attcked her first. Such a terrible way to go.

My mom started lipitor in 2001, was diagnosed with als in 2002 and has recently passed away, I’ve always felt it was lipitor, One of the problems with it is that is blocks the production of COQ10, Something your body naturally produces to fight off cell damaging free radicals, in my mom’s Lou Gherig’s support group, over half were on lipitor or some sort of statin cholesterol lowering drug.

My dad also took the drug lipitor for around 2 years, he passed away with ALS at age 64. My dad was a truck driver and was overall in good health. He had many leg cramps and hurting in his legs through his series of taking the drug lipitor, while on the drug my dad developed ALS. His muscle began to waste away, he was diagnosed in 1999 and lived a year after that.
My mother and I truly think that the liptor caused my dad to have ALS, but do not know how to prove this. We would like this information to be sent on, this needs to be looked at as I think that many that take this drug should know that if liptor can effect the muscles than why would it not cause ALS. Thank you for taking the time to read this email. Connie , Ar.

Just went to visit my aunt in an assisted living home. She has been diagnosed with lou gerhig’s disease and is now in a chair. No history of this in our family anywhere. She took lipitor and went to the doctor and told him of her symptoms and she said she thought it was from this drug. He told her to stay on it and the symptoms were not from the drug.
She finally went off it anyways but now is diagnosed with this terrible disease and cannot walk on her own. What a terrible thing to happen to such a vibrant and wonderful person. And we are bombarded with commercials. What should we do about this so it doesn’t happen to anyone else? Remember Vioxx?

I was on 80mg. Lipitor for 3 years and after 2 years developed muscle cramping. The doctor said that wasn’t a symptom of Lipitor side effects. Within a year afterwards I developed severe muscle weakness, walking flat-footed (more like flap-footed), could not get up easily after falling, contunued cramping all over and muscle twitching from neck to toe (200+/minute). I went off of Lipitor 3 months ago and the effects are still there. I am on physical therapy. The weakness is primarily core weakness. The front upper thighs and lower abdomen are primarily affected with severe weakness after only walking 100 ft. The Neurologist diagnosed it as motor neuron disease.

Several years ago my doctor put me on Lipitor and it dropped my cholesterol by 100 points. I was happy but did not connect the pains in my legs and feet until the cramping became intolerable. In addition, I started falling as I was walking…. as if I had stuck on something. I read that stubbed-toe falling can be a symptom of statin drug use. Sometimes I can stumble as often as 4 to 5 times a day….. sometimes I can catch myself and other times I fall very hard and have no strength in my legs to get up without help. Has anyone had these experiences with Lipitor or Crestor use?

Please do whatever you can to get off any statins!! My mom would have chosen to die of a heart attack rather than to die from ALS. She was on vitorin and lipitor for about 3 years. Up until 5 months ago she was a young 75 y/o woman. She was sledding last winter and now gets tired after a few minutes of minimal exertion, chokes on many foods, has difficulty with her speech, and is slipping into the scary world of ALS. How can these drug companies ignore these findings?

Son-in law diagnosed with PLS. He has been dragging leg and spasms for about 5 mo. Has been on statins for some time. Very high cholesterol, over 500. It is genetic. Was presently on crestor, but on lipitor for a long time. Dr. still keeps him on these meds even after diagnosis.

Statins may lower cholesterol but they do not prevent heart attack, stroke or heart disease. Lowering total cholesterol is not a healthy idea as your body needs cholesterol to function properly. The cause of heart disease is inflammation.
Statins are a huge money maker for drug companies as are other drugs. How does putting man-made chemicals and toxins into your body improve your health? The more drugs you take the sicker you become and the more drugs you will need. Research inflammation and scarred arteries as risk factors for heart disease and find a good naturopathic doctor to guide you to better health.

About three years ago I was on Lipitor for about a year and had to go off it due to muscle pain and weakness. I could hardly walk. My doctor changed me to Pravastatin (generic for Pravachol) that I was on for about a year. I increasingly had muscle pain and weakness in my legs and shoulders until I again could barely walk and had trouble gettin up from sitting. Finally was told to go off it and within 10 days the muscle pain was gone as was the extreme cough that I could not get rid of. I am only 59 years old and I have always had sensitivity to prescription drugs. My doctors tell me I need to stay on cholesterol medication and have suggested Zetia but I am afraid to take it too. Any suggestions?

I take 10 mg of Lipitor daily, but my doc prescribes 20, so I half it. I did that initially. My cholesterol dropped from 242 to 151. I am going to now take 10 mg only 3 times a week, as I fear this drug.
If anyone is on a statin drug, the supplementation with CoQ10 is absolutely ESSENTIAL!! I take 100 mg daily, and probably should take more.
I also take Carlson CodLiver Oil capsules (Low A), which helps with osteoarthritis pain, which I have really wondered if THAT was a side effect of the statin.
I’m afraid to take it, but afriad NOT to take it. I believe most people who are on statins are WAY overdosed!
My mother took a statin and was diagnosed with ALS at 87, and died at 88. Now that I know this connection, I am REALLY worried!!!

This cholesterol craze is the latest racket dreamed up by these sleazy drug companies. I was told by two doctors, one in California, and one in New Jersey that once the American public wakes up to this, it will make tobacco lawsuits look like nothing compared to what will happen with this stuff.
Why do doctors continue to push this stuff? Suffice it to say Congress should put the kabash to the free meals, trips and everything else they get by these criminal enterprises commonly referred to as drug companies.

After starting Zocor, I experienced leg weakness and pain. Part of it was associated with osteoarthritis, but my doctor put me on CQ-10 in addition to the Statin. I was doing well on 150 mg daily, but tried to go lower and the leg pain returned so went back to the 150 mg. I’m still stiff, but keep exercising with deep water aquasize and a rather active life, so problems are minimized.

A while back the doctor put me on lipitor. After driving could hardly walk. He had a blood count done after several months. It seems my tri-glycerides where over 500. The doctor finally took me off the drug and blood work went back to normal. But now I have severe RLS. At least when I drive now I can get out of the car and walk!!

After taking vytorin for about a year, I began experiencing pain if I tried to raise my arms higher than my shoulders. I told my M.D. about this and he thought I had been on vytorin long enough that I would have had side effects before this. After taking it for a few more weeks I quit taking it, as the pain seemed to be increasing. T.V. ads had warned about the possiblity of pain, and had said to report it. I am thankful I did. I did not know what would have happened if I had continued taking it.

I read this article in my local newspaper. It grabbed my attention because I’ve been on the generic of Zocor for about 15 months. I’ve noticed that I’ve become stiff when sitting or driving. I also have weakness when descending stairs. Additionally, muscles that have never cramped before now do excruciatingly. I plan to discuss this with my doctor, but have taken myself off of this simvistatin and in the last two weeks have had no cramping or stiffness.

My active, healthy brother-in-law, age 70, began taking Vitorin, which is a combnation of Zocor and Zetia. His wife takes Vitorin without side effects. However, he began to notice progressive muscle soreness that would
eventually prevent him from even rolling over in bed. Formerly, he always stood straight and upright but on the Vitorin he walked hunched over, and his nose nearly touched his plate at the table.
Stopping the Vitorin, his muscle integrity is slowly returning, along with his former mobility.

My doctor started me on the statin drugs about 4 years ago… approximately 3 weeks after starting, I began to have muscle weakness to the point I could hardly walk any distance at home, much less go to the store… He changed my medicine to another statin drug. At this date I have tried most of them, always with the same results… the last time he put me back on Crestor starting with a much lower dosage, 5MG… 6 weeks now I feel some tiredness but not the weakness I felt before. Also I am expericeing some forgetfulness, which I did before… anybody else having this symptom?

My stepmother was on Lipitor and was gradually losing her ability to walk, and is always complaning of muscle cramps all over her body legs, arms, even her head! She has to use a walker and is about to be in a raschal chair–we already have one for her but she refuses to use it just yet, but I don’t think she will be able to use a walker for much longer. Her speach has been affected, it’s such a chore for her to get dressed she refuses to go anywhere and she loves to get out and to travel. She had been diagnosed with ALS.
It breaks my heart ot see her this way, because she was once a person so full of life! And very independent. And now she is almost helpless! My father had to retire from work to stay home and take care of her. Luckily he worked for General Moters for 35 years and had a good retirement, but how many people out there can not afford to do this?? I wish somebody would do something before there are a lot more people out there who will end up the same way!
Someone please do something!

I, too, have been battling the statin vs muscle deterioration syndrome for many years. In addition, I have advanced coronary artery disease, so it is imperative that I keep my lipid numbers very low. I have tried (under doctor’s supervision) 5 different statin meds, but the results are always the same.
My question: has your website put together a comprehensive study on how a niacin regimen could fit in? My goal is primarily the LDL component. From what little information I could glean on a niacin regimen’s effect, it primarily enhances HDL. Does it do much in lowering HDL?
Walt Augustyniak

My mother, age 71, started exhibiting early symptoms of ALS approximately 2 years ago. Her symptoms started in her mouth. They have since spread to her arms, torso and now her legs. She had been on Lipitor for a year or so prior to this. This was her only medication other than Prozac 10 mg. She is now completely dependant. She has had a peg tub for over a year. I read shortly after her diagnosis reports of a liptor connection. We immediately stopped it, but if it was the cause, it was too late.

Took Lopid for 6 yr’s. Was telling the Dr. every 3 months I could hardly move. For last Yr. stayed in bed, couldn’t do anything. Then she told me one visit to stop taking the med. After I stopped, I regained some of my energy. Don’t know what to do. Loosing weight fast! Skin sagging! But, I feel as though I have lost so much of life!
Dorothy weikel

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