The People's Perspective on Medicine

Statins Sap Sex Drive and Lower Testosterone

Statins may have an overlooked side effect. Sexual dysfunction is not listed in the prescribing information but many readers report low libido on statins.

As visitors to this website know, statin-type cholesterol-lowering medicines remain among the most popular drugs in the pharmacy. Many cardiologists maintain that such medications are extremely safe, having few, if any, side effects.

One area that has not been studied as thoroughly as we would like has to do with sexual dysfunction. There is very little in the official prescribing information of statins that relates to sexual side effects. That is probably why most health professionals would maintain that drugs like Lipitor or Crestor do not impact sexual desire or performance. But readers of our newspaper column and visitors to this website report a different story.

Q. I recently turned 50. I’ve been taking Livalo for high cholesterol and have been experiencing symptoms like no sexual desire. In addition, I can’t sleep through the night, feel totally exhausted and have missed several days of work.

My doctor prescribed AndroGel to treat low testosterone levels. Could Livalo be causing all my problems?

A. There is evidence that statin-type cholesterol-lowering drugs reduce testosterone levels (BMC Med, Feb. 28, 2013).

That means that drugs like pitavastatin (Livalo), atorvastatin (Lipitor), rosuvastatin (Crestor) and simvastatin (Zocor) may lower this important hormone, which could have an impact on libido and sexual performance (Journal of Sexual Medicine, April, 2010).

The FDA has recently issued a warning against the use of testosterone unless men have hypogonadism, a condition that lowers this hormone. The agency is concerned that prescribed testosterone may increase the risk for heart attacks and strokes, precisely what you are trying to avoid with Livalo.

You might be able to overcome the statin side effects of fatigue, low libido and insomnia by using a different approach to lowering cholesterol. Our Guide to Cholesterol Control and Heart Health offers many options for achieving this goal.

You are not the only one to report statin-related sexual side effects. Rich shared the following story:

“I have been taking 40 mg of Crestor for about 6 years now.  I’m 47 years old and in fairly good physical condition, except for my very high cholesterol, which runs in my family.  I work out regularly and have for years, but I no longer have any sex drive nor am I able to maintain an erection.  I ask my doctors if this could be a side effect of Crestor and they both tell me absolutely not.  It’s just getting older.  I disagree, as I’m not that old for this to occur.

“My testosterone levels dropped into the low 200’s and now they put me on Androgel. It’s just brought me over 300, which isn’t great.”

S.A. had a similar story:

“I am a very active Army Physical Training Instructor. I am 45 years old and always had a great sex drive until I started taking Crestor six months ago to lower my cholesterol.

“My sex drive has totally disappeared. I am unable to maintain an erection and feel tired all the time. It has been causing me a great deal of stress and anguish. Is Crestor causing my ED and libido problems?”

Caesar in LA adds to the growing list of disappointed men (and women):

“I believe that my cholesterol medication is ruining my sex life. In the past I always pleased my woman, but now find it hard to get in the mood or keep an erection. It is frustrating and makes me feel insecure of myself. I have been feeling depressed.”

R.W. has an especially poignant story to share about atorvastatin, testosterone, PSA and prostate cancer:

“I was on 20mg of atorvastatin for over a year. My sex drive was at an all time low and I did not have a full erection after taking it. I was also feeling tired.

“My doctor who put me on on the 20mg of atorvastatin suggested I have my testosterone tested which was below a normal level, but not much. He recommended me to a specialist who paid no attention to the fact that prostate cancer ran in my family. Without checking my prostate gland he only looked at my PSA which was 2.3. He placed me on the lowest level of Androgel.

“Carefully, I followed the instructions and noticed after a month that my sex drive and erections were back…like being in my 20s again. I was able to workout and do my chores without feeling rundown.

“After being on the Androgel for three months, my PSA was read at 5.8. At that point I scheduled an appointment with a urologist who did a biopsy for sampling my prostate gland. He stopped the Androgel immediately. Twelve drill samples later, the doctor told me I had no cancer in 11 samples, but one was atypical, which meant I needed to be re-tested 6 months later.

“Meanwhile my younger brother was placed on hospice with stage 4 prostate cancer. Two weeks after he passed, I went in for another biopsy and had 15 samples taken. They turned out negative, to my relief.

“My wife had read about statins and the problems associated with them and I instructed my doctor to prescribe 10mg which put everything back to normal. Lesson learned. Find the cause of the problem without having doctors prescribe medicines that are not needed.”

We only wish that the FDA required better assessment of drug-induced sexual side effects. It took many years for the makers of SSRI-type antidepressants (Prozac, Zoloft, etc) to recognize that such drugs could have a profoundly negative impact on both sexual desire and performance. Goodness know how long it will take the FDA and drug companies to recognize that statins might also impact sexuality.

Share your own statin story below and please rate this article by selecting a star at the top of this page.

Find out about other ways to control cholesterol by looking at our Guide on this topic.

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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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Exactly! I have been on 3 of the major statins since I was 52 for high cholesterol. I had double bypass when I was 54 and I am now 72. I addressed the ED numerous times with the doctors and it was like they didn’t hear me. The surgeon that did my heart surgery said he refused to take a statin drug because of the long hours he had to be on his feet. but my cardiologist told me I needed it because of family history. After one of my drs. retired and they gave me another doctor, at my annual physical I brought up the ED again and he told me, “that is a normal thing for a gentleman your age”, I was 60 then. I have very little sex drive and I had a really high sex drive before. The urologist I see because of my PSA suggested a vacuum pump which I use, but it would be nice to have the interest there too.
I haven’t ever quit completely taking a statin, but my PSA number is increasing and I have read that the statins help keep that number lower.
Oh, when I was on the Lipitor for a number of years after my heart surgery, it hurt my ankles and feet so bad to walk and stand and I worked in the factory also, there wasn’t anyway that I could walk for exercise and I told the doctors over and over about that and it fell on deaf ears.
We are suppose to talk to our doctors, but why? They do not listen to you, don’t agree with what you are reading or what supplement that you might want to take.
The People’s Pharmacy has a section this morning 11/20/2018 on the very fact of people lying to their doctors or not telling them everything. It makes you wonder Why!

I was prescribed Lipitor 10mg a few days ago. There’s no way, after four days of research, that I’m taking it, even with Co Q-10. I’m not going down like that. I’d rather go vegan, if that’s what it takes. May still take the Co Q-10, though. Seems like it would offer more for a good life than any of these statins.

I underwent unexpected coronary artery bypass surgery app. 1.5 years ago. Several months after that my PCP at the time prescribed 20 mg of atorvastatin daily. Main side effects after about 3 weeks were sexual nonfunction, intense muscle pains after exercise (tennis, running), and semi-constipation.

I soon requested a change and over the following 2 months tried two other statins. Similar results in side effects but less intensity, except for sexual nonfunction. Stopped taking each. Sex drive resumed in every case, a week or two after discontinuing statin.

This summer my cardiologist prescribed the lowest dosage (5mg) of rosuvastatin, saying it had the “lowest sideeffect profile” of the statins. Still on it after about 4.5 mos. Sexual dysfunction is the only side effect, but it is intermittent. Some days the sex drive is as willing and able as in prestatin days, and other days not so much.

The rosuvastatin is lowering LDL even at the small dosage, so I’ll continue it a bit longer. I developed workarounds/methods for the other sideeffects –muscle pain, constipation– if and when they recur. I’ve just begun researching and working out same for the intermittent sexual dysfunction.

But I’ll also be working out an alternative regimen of supplements such as niacin or that will replace the statin when I stop it. And will be searching for data about possibility of permanent loss of sexual functioning after stopping a statin.

I hope this summary is of interest or use to those of you in worse situations associated with taking a statin.

Many years ago, I had reoccurring problems with chest and back pain that did subside. I had mentioned this to a primary care doctor I had been seeing at the time. He wanted to cut to the chase and ordered an angiogram. Sure enough, they found blockages and wanted to do open heart surgery, or else I would die – yes, that bluntly. I decided on a different course with stent implants. I was then put on Lipitor and blood pressure meds. After years of this, I questioned the need and was told the benefits outweighed the side effects.

Cutting to the recent years, I had some other problems relative to the back pain and was told I had gall stones that became impacted and eventually had my gall bladder removed. It was in very bad shape. I had also gone on a lifestyle regimen, and without going in to detail, I have gone from 200 pounds to 145 pounds. I eat only healthy whole (real) foods and get regular exercise. I weaned off the cholesterol meds and am down to 10mg of Lisinopril.

However, I still have sleeping problems and ED. I am now 76 years old and guess I have to live with it. Thanks a lot, Lipitor!

I am a pharmacist of 25 years. In the beginning, i believed everything i was taught that meds help people. I now know better after 25 years of life experience. Some medications that have more direct line (without affecting ancillary chemical processes of the body’s biochemical system) are helpful. But most new drugs since the year 2000 and on have been created simply to make money for the manufacturers.

My boyfriend at age 39 was put on aspirin 81mg per day and Lipitor (Atorvastatin) 20mg a day. On his 40th birthday, he started bleeding internally and was in the ICU for 5 days and another 2 days on the regular floor. 5 units of blood and 2 cauterizing and clipping upper endoscopies later, he survived. He almost required a stomach resection but luckily the bleeding stopped. Fast forward another 3 months and he had developed a huge achilles tendon lump on xray.

At age 40, he was in pain every day working in a factory job on his feet all day and having to walk constantly. 3 months later, he could barely walk from the achilles tendon and could not keep up with me walking into the school to my daughters basketball game. It wasnt until that exact moment that i actually realized how much pain he really was in (he is not a complainer and so i wasnt really aware until he was unable to walk normally).

I can now see how drs don’t actually ‘hear’ their patients because if they arent seeing the before and after effects for themselves, and the patient still looks fine on the outside–they are taught to believe everything IS FINE, Even if the patient is telling them something IS WRONG. I live this everyday at work in hospital , drs will not look into anything or believe what you are saying until you are past the point of return and literally your tendon has to rupture first! New Drs are currently being trained Not to listen to your own beliefs of what is occurring in your own body. Drs hate the fact that you can read about medical stuff online or worse yet, read about other peoples experiences straight from the people who lived it!

My boyfriend’s achilles tendon and whole body muscle pain WAS FROM THE LIPITOR (Atorvastatin)!!! Not just ‘The normal aging process’! Statins block the chemical cascade that leads to production of MANY NECESSARY biochemicals such as cholesterol (of course) but also coenzyme Q, testosterone, and the chemical compunds needed for muscle and tendon cell repair and regeneration!!….. Without Coenzyme Q, which is required for normal brain function–people start to have memory loss, amnesia, cognitive decline, dementia….. Without Testosterone, men develop Erectile dysfunction, loss of sex drive, muscle wasting, sleep problems, mood changes, depression, constantly tired and no energy.

Fast forward to when I realized the muscle pain and achilles tendon were caused by the Lipitor—i had him stop immediately. His cholesterol and triglyceride levels jumped high up again within just 10 days. We tried fish oils–a high quality supplement I bought but when he had his cholesterol bloodwork redone, he had run out of the fish oil and so had been off for about 2 months.

His cholesterol and triglycerides were still higher than when they had been checked ten days after stopping lipitor. The Dr took my advice on switching to Crestor (Rosuvastatin) 20mg per day. In under 3 months on Crestor, he developed Erectile Dysfuntion and coukd not maintain an erection. I told him it was the Crestor. He stopped it and returned back to normal within 2 to 3 weeks. I truly believe that the Crestor must have lowered his testosterone levels causinh the erectile dysfunction because he also was now always sleepy and tired, moody and depressed, and unable to sleep at night.

Now, he is at his drs this moment and i said he can either try Pravastatin and see if he gets erectile dysfunction from that or go back on a lowered dose of Lipitor (Atorvastatin) (he had been on 20mg) because we at least know the lipitor didnt cause him Erectile dysfunction–it only caused him muscle pain and achilles tendon. My boyfriend is a smoker and is overweight. We both know if he stopped smoking , his triglycerides would drop dramatically and cholesterol too. Especially if he lost weight.

What I would like people to know is that, is it worth living with the side effects just to have low cholesterol levels within the range your doctor wants to see but doesnt have to do the living of side effects for you?? In my boyfriend’s case, he does not want to live in constant pain or live without being able to have sex and the intimate relationship and confidence that comes with that.

I think being on low dose Lipitor (10mg) will still give him some benefit on his health-even if his numbers arent what they ‘should’ be. I would rather he have energy and feel happy and robust, then suffer the crappy low-level, but constant and neverending side effects daily. Trust me, i know he is at high risk for a heart attack, Peripheral Artery disease and everything, but I no longer believe that giving high dose meds that detrimentally alter your bodies other natural biochemistry processes is worth it in this case. It is a very fine balance.

I want him to take low dose statin because I do believe it will lend some protection for him. But i also can visually see the effects of meds that his father has been on for decades now that have taken all chances of any vitality away from him. It is just one med after another added on , when the problems are from the initial meds themselves.

My Biochemistry textbook (Lehninger Principles of Biochemistry.3rd ed. Nelson,D.L. & Cox,M.M.2000) explains why our bodies make cholesterol (page 812). It is the precursor molecule from which glucocorticoid ,mineralocorticoid , testosterone and estradiol hormones are made (also bile acids and vitamin D). Statins stop manufacture of cholesterol well before these reactions. It does not surprise me that statins cause many problems.I get that big pharma want to sell their product for their profit.I don’t get that Doctors that prescribe these drugs cannot open a biochemistry textbook . I expect better.

Three months on 20mg of pravastatin and I’m here to pronounce my libido dead. I have been taking vitamin C and coenzyme Q10, too. It’s four in the morning and I can’t sleep. I’ve already tried lowering my cholesterol through diet and got zero change. This is nuts.

For many years I was on Creator but ran out and never got it refilled. I have always had issues with my sex drive and never thought about my chlosterol medicine having anything to do with it. It wasn’t until about Thanksgiving that I notice a hugh difference in my sex drive ànd finally started putting things together because being off Creator was the only thing that was different and I had been off the medication for about three or four months. Now that I am off the medication, I can say that I really enjoy sex for the first time in a very very long time but I have to go back to the doctor to see what the long term effect of being off the medication has done. I hate the idea of having to go back on any chlosterol medicine too.

Statins do kill sex drive and limp the penis. I had a high sex drive, which slowly disappeared to nothing and killed erections. I knew something was “up” and did a google search to see if the statins could be the culprit. I was taking 20mg/daily for about 2 months before it completely depleted my libido and erections. I was also tired a lot – talk about a depressing issue. This word needs to get out there.

I agree – statins definitely do reduce sex drive – after only 5 months of taking rosuvastatin I have very little interest in sex ( was usually 3 times a week – am aged 55).

However I have been taking CoQ10 Excel tablets – suggested by pharmacist who knew the effect of statins ( whereas the heart surgeons and doctors dd not evaluate the statin effect) – and vitamin C

These are having a good effect – almost immediately. Hope they help you.

The reason I am here because I worked out for sure 100% sure that statin has killed my sex drive

I am 63 and had a healthy sex drive until I recently started taking Rosucard (generic version of Crestor) under the advice of my cardiologist due to family history and blood test results. Prior to this I had taken Crestor for two months without any problems in the Libido department. Now after two weeks not so, I have lost interest in sex. Unfortunately, my girlfriend is 25 years younger than me and even though she is understanding I am concerned. I plan on bringing the topic up on the next upcoming visit with my cardiologist.

I totally agree with the comments made here. I’ve been on statins for 5 years and started to notice a drop in my sex drive and ability to perform, my doctor gave me 100mg of Viagra thinking it was just my age (62) but that had no effect so this year I decided to change things, I’ve lost weight,reduced the wine intake and go swimming 3 times a week but the main thing is I’m not taking any statins. I’ll take my chance. Hey presto everything now works fine and I don’t need the Viagra either

Ontario, Canada.

I was prescribed Crestor, 10 mg daily and after a few months noticed loss of sex drive and it was difficult to get an erection. After I stopped taking it everything returned back to normal. I am convinced Crestor was the reason.

I am a 39 year old male. I have been on simvastatin for at least 2 years. It definitely brought my cholesterol levels to a good range but hindsight my sex drive has been lower through this whole time. I was listening to an overnight alternative medicine program and this exact topic was brought up. Just in the past 3 months I had my testosterone checked and it was 160. Very low. Nothing was said by my doctor about the statin possibly causing this. I just had my blood checked and am waiting on the level report. If it hasn’t gone up significantly (I don’t feel any different after 3 injections) I will absolutely stop the simvastatin. My questions that I haven’t been able to find is how long after I stop taking it will I feel any different or better? Are these side effects reversable? Will I absolutely get my sex drive back as it was before?

have you stopped statin? is everything is back to normal? My side effects did not disappear months after stopping. To me these are permanent now.

Will discontinue usage of “Simvastatin” improve my sex libido ?
Currently sex drive is there , but muscle bit soft .
Also my arms muscles seems to weaken as well even with weight exercise .

I’ve been on 10mg if Crestor for a month now. I am 43 it definitely reduced my sex drive to almost zero and I now only sleep for 3-4 hrs a night.

My wife is on these and has zero drive. It sucks. She tried Androgel and it didn’t do a thing. I have no solutions to offer.

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