Lipitor and memory

At first, I was skeptical. A book from a nutty author and physician named Duane Graveline kept on coming up in conversations with patients. His book, Lipitor: Thief of Memory , details his personal experience with dramatic changes in memory and thought while taking Lipitor.

Now this is a drug that I've seen used thousands of times. But I've now seen about a dozen people who have had distinct struggles with memory and clarity of thinking while taking Lipitor. Most took doses of 40 mg per day or more, though an occasional person takes as little as 10 mg. The association seems to be undeniable, since it improves after two weeks off the drug, recurs when resumed. Just today, I saw two people where this effect may be an issue.

Curiously, I've not seen it with any other statin agent. Unfortunately, uncovering any scientific data on the issue is a hopeless quest. Either it's very uncommon or, worse, the data has been suppressed.

Any way, I believe that Dr. Graveline was right: Lipitor, in a small number of people, does indeed seem to exert real detrimental effects on the mind.

If you take Lipitor, should you stop it in fear of long-term effects on your mental capacity? I think it's premature to toss the drug out based on this relatively uncommon relationship. This particular effect is likely to be idiosyncratic, i.e., peculiar to an occasional person but does not seem to apply to the majority, probably by some quirk of metabolism or penetrability of the barrier between the blood and nervous system tissue.

If, however, you feel that your thinking and memory have deteriorated on the drug, please speak to your doctor.

Comments (2) -

  • Jeffrey Dach MD

    6/18/2007 10:13:00 PM |

    Perhaps you have seen the Direct-to-Consumer TV and print advertisements with Robert Jarvik, the inventor of the Jarvik Heart, speaking on behalf of the Pfizer’s anti-cholesterol drug, Lipitor.

    Perhaps Jarvik is not the best choice for the Lipitor campaign which has had mixed reviews. Instead of Jarvik, a more convincing yet unlikely spokesman would be the popular Duane Graveline MD MPH, a former NASA astronaut, and author who was started on Lipitor during an annual astronaut physical at the Johnson Space Center, and 6 weeks later had an episode of transient global amnesia, a sudden form of total memory loss described in his book, Lipitor Thief of Memory.    

    Two more unlikely spokesmen for the Lipitor ad campaign include Mary Enig and Uffe Ravnskov.  

    Should either one be selected as Lipitor spokesman, I myself would run down to the corner drug store to buy up the drug.  It seems unlikey that even Pfizer’s deep pockets could ever induce them to recant their opposing position on the cholesterol theory of heart disease.  

    Mary G. Enig writes, ”hypercholesterolemia is the health issue of the 21st century. It is actually an invented disease, a problem that emerged when health professionals learned how to measure cholesterol levels in the blood.  

    Uffe Ravnskov MD PhD is spokesman for Thincs, The International Network of Cholesterol Skeptics, and author of “The Cholesterol Myths, Exposing the Fallacy That Saturated Fat and Cholesterol Cause Heart Disease”.  His controversial ideas have angered loyal cholesterol theory supporters in Finland who demonstrated by burning his book on live television.

    For more discussion on this, see my newsletter: Lipitor and The Dracula of Modern Technology

    Jeffrey Dach MD

  • Anonymous

    11/10/2008 7:50:00 PM |

    My mom went on lipitor for "high cholesterol".  I don't think it's all that high, but whatever.

    She ended up in the hospital with "transient global amnesia".  Cause: completely unknown.  It's just one of those things that happens.

    I've begged her to stop, and try something else.  Her doctor has been very relunctant, but at least he agreed to significantly reduce her dosage, and there has been no further problem.

    A book I read about this suggested that the problem came from the drug industry, and their competitive markets.  They want a drug that is as powerful as possible, to impress doctors.  They also want a drug that is simple to prescribe, without complicated tables.  So they create pills that are the maximum dose.  My 70 year old mom who is fairly small is taking the same dose a 300 pound linebacker would take.

    Lipitor is particularly bad about this, and is nearly 4 times as strong as the other statins.

    What really pisses me off is how the manufacturers ignore these reports, by showing that there are no known adverse side effects on memory.  Well, yeah.  That's because my mom's TGA was "unknown cause".  And my mom's doctor didn't file an FDA report on lipitor.  So how could it ever be linked?