Wacky statin effects

In general, I try to exhaust possibilities before resorting to the statin drugs. But we still do use them, both in general practice and the Track Your Plaque program.

There are indeed a number of ways to reduce, minimize, or eliminate the need for these drugs. For instance, if your LDL is 150 mg/dl but comprised of 90% small particles, then a reduction in wheat and other high-glycemic index foods, weight loss, fish oil, and niacin can yield big drops in LDL.

But sometimes we need them. Say LDL is 225 mg/dl and is a mix of large and small. Exercise, weight loss, niacin, oat bran, ground flaxseed, Benecol, etc. and LDL: 198 mg/dl. Alright, that's when statins may be unavoidable. There's also many people who are not as motivated as all of us trying to reverse heart disease. Some just want the easy way out. Statins do indeed provide that option in some people.

So in truth, we end up using these drugs fairly regularly. How common are muscle aches and fatigue? In my experience, they are universal . If taken long enough, or if high doses are used, muscle complaints are inevitable. Most of the time, thankfully, they're modest and often relieved with a change in drug or with coenzyme Q10 supplementation.

But there's more to statin side effects than muscle aches. Among the wacky effects that I have witnessed with statin drugs:

--Insomnia-especially with simvastatin (Zocor and Vytorin). Insomnia can be quite severe, in fact, with difficulty sleeping more than 3-4 hours a night.

--Bone aches--I don't know why this happens, unless it's somehow related to muscle aches. I've seen this with all the statins, but more commonly with Crestor.

--Memory impairment--a la Dr. Duane Graveline's wacky book, Lipitor: Thief of Memory. I've seen this with Lipitor, though it's uncommon, and less commonly with simvastatin (Zocor, Vytorin).

--Diarrhea--More common with Zetia and Vytorin (which contains Zetia), because of the inhibition of bile acid reabsorption.

--Migraine headaches--This I certainly do not understand, but the cause-effect relationship is undoubtedly true in an occasional person.

--Low libido--In men more than women, though it may be more due to men being more willing to admit to it.

--Increased appetite--Rare, though I've seen dramatic instances.

--Tinnitus--Ringing in the ears. I've only seen it with Lipitor and Zocor.

In their defense (and in general I am no defender of the drug manufacturers), most people do fine with statin drugs, though the majority do eventually require coenzyme Q10 in my experience. By the way, coenzyme Q10 can be an indispensable aid to help tolerate statin agents.

I'd love to hear about your wacky experiences.

Comments (18) -

  • Anonymous

    9/23/2007 2:26:00 PM |

    It was the craziest thing, my elbows felt like they needed to pop but couldn't.  I was taking 20mgs of Zocor, and the first couple of months the elbows were fine, but one day I realized they hurt and wouldn't pop.  I enjoy tennis and will occasionally shoot baskets with the boys - working elbows are a requirement for both sports.  I told my doctor the problem and he said to stop taking Zocor, and after two weeks he will have me try a different statin.  Avoiding Zocor brought relief.  After a week of being statin free the elbows stopped aching.    

    I havn't gone back to my doctor to receive a prescription for that new statin.  After learning more about heart disease prevention from this sight and others, my starting LDL was low to begin with right around 80, and so decided to take a different natural approach to lower my LDL and more importantly for me raise HDL.  I cleaned up my diet and began taking nutritional supplements.  It worked, today cholesterol levels are great, and I have working elbows.

  • DietKing2

    9/23/2007 3:27:00 PM |

    When I first started on Lipitor 20mgs a few months back I suffered from 'Lipitor Leg'; that dull, annoying pain that plays hide-and-seek in and about the calf and thigh muscle.  And of course, only one leg, too.  Weird, nu? But it went away when I doubled my intake of CoEnzyme Q10 from 150mgs to 300mgs daily. (yeah, I don't like taking chances on being stingy)
    I could easily blame the Lipitor I'm taking for my short-term memory issues, but I'm hesitant to pass absolute judgment as of yet, only because of the tremendous amount of reading/researching I do daily combined with the fact that I sometimes have my head up my ass, and it causes me to forget stuff.  I'll keep you posted.
    And you keep posting this fantastic stuff, too!

  • JoeEO

    9/23/2007 4:21:00 PM |

    I have experienced the muscle aches, absent mindedness and what I believe to be severe GERD. The GERD symptoms where so severe that I stopped taking Lipitor (20 MG) a month ago.

    Dr Davis - have you tried Q.O.D. administration of longer acting statin? There is a cardiologist in Hartford CT (PD Thompson) who  
    has found that Q.O.D.  administration of statins "significantly improves serum lipid levels" (PUB MED ID 16230873)


    Joe E O

  • Dr. Davis

    9/23/2007 5:49:00 PM |

    Hi, Joe-

    No, I didn't know that!

    Sounds like an interesting strategy. I think it's worth a try.

  • Anonymous

    9/24/2007 5:00:00 PM |

    After taking Lipitor 10mg for a few days I developed an occasional pain in the back of my right eye.  Since I had never had a pain like that before I stopped taking it and the pain disappeared a few days later, never to return.  Although my cardiologist said he had never heard of anything like that, I found several people on the internet who reported having varying types of vision-related reactions.  It's fairly obvious that some people do have strange reactions.  Years ago, when it was a prescription drug, I once took Claritin and thought I was going to die when my airway started to close down.  Now (don't laugh) I'll only take a new drug in the parking lot of the hospital!  Thinking you won't be able to breathe might do that for you.  Fortunately I don't really have to take any drugs   ...   yet.
            TYP member:  the164club

  • Dr. Davis

    9/24/2007 10:39:00 PM |

    Add another wacky side-effect to the list!

  • Cindy Moore

    9/25/2007 4:23:00 AM |

    Wacky? Well, I'm not sure how memory loss, muscle and bone pain, and debilitating diarrhea can be considered "wacky", but yea, I had them and more...how about severe depression? For the first time in my life I would cry at the least thing and had to force myself out of bed and do anything!!

    I'm sorry. Wacky? That isn't a term I'd use for the side effects that I and many others experienced.

    For those of us that have had severe reactions to these drugs it is very difficult to get your doc to understand and believe. My doc actually laughed at me!! Many are ignored when they complain about muscle and bone pain....then when it gets unbearable they sometimes will quit the drug. Others have what appears to be permanent peripheral neuropathy as a result of statins and their effect being ignored. Having a physician, and an apparently fairly well known one, call these side effects "wacky" minimizes what many have gone thru and makes it harder for others to convince their docs!

  • Tom

    11/17/2007 3:50:00 AM |

    Two weeks after I started 10mg/day of Lipitor I developed tinnitus.  I had never noticed a ringing in my ears before and now all of a sudden it was LOUD.  After three months I saw my doctor for a cholesterol retest (it went way down) and complained of the tinnitus.  He said he hadn't heard of this side effect, but I told him the web said 2% complain of it.  He suggested I go to 5mg/day to see if it helped.  I tried this for a few months, then went totally off for a few weeks, and the tinnitus got better, but never went away.  I'm still on a 5mg dose after 9 months and I still have tinnitus.  My fear is that the damage is done and the tinnitus will never go away.

  • Anonymous

    3/13/2008 2:45:00 AM |

    Other bloggers: you might have something about the tinnitus. I had been plagued by tinnitus a few years ago - unrelated to statins - eventually it went away. I suspect medications. However, six days ago I began 5 mg simvastatin and the tinnitus came back, same sort of noise, same annoying level or volume. Dr. Davis mentioned tinnitus and Zocor in his "wacky" side effects posting. Maybe not so wacky, huh?

  • Veedubmom

    4/6/2008 1:50:00 AM |

    I got sun sensitivity from taking Simvastatin.  Wherever my skin is exposed to the sun, it turns red and starts itching intensely and my skin looks like giant hives.  I have to wear long sleeves, gloves, turtlenecks, etc.  

    Has anyone else ever had this side effect?


  • jegan

    1/25/2009 4:26:00 AM |

    I was on Lipitor, but as a result of teh recent study, asked to go on Simvastatin. I too have never suffered tinnitus until taking statins. I perceive it most at night. It sounds either like e pure high pitched white noise, or often like being stuck in an aviary with a million high pitched birds. I did not suffer any pains, but I clearly am more forgetful. I also feel depressed, and really don;t care about anything.. Paying bills, family, cleaning, you name it. Also, my rosacea seems to act up a lot more.

  • Brian

    2/27/2009 1:02:00 PM |

    I started Zocor 2 weeks ago and have ringing in right ear. Somtimes irs loud. I also had dizzyness and feeling of confusion the 1st week. Insomnia too.

  • UrbaneGorilla

    2/28/2009 4:00:00 AM |

    I don't know why there is no real documentation on these type of statin side effects. I'm guessing that there is too much money behind the labeled products.

    To sum up:

    I started taking statins a couple of years ago. A friend told me that he heard that they caused altzheimers-like symptoms. I didn't think that I exhibeted any effects like that, so I pretty much ignored it, except to raise the issue with my doctor.

    During the last two years, I gradually lost interest in pretty much everything. It wasn't that I was forgetful, I just didn't much care about anything. Didn't care about my hobbies, quit my job, only paid bills when I felt like it, left a rental property vacant for 1 1/2 years and other similar issues.

    I am normally a pretty active person with lots of pursuits. When I spoke to my doctor about my 'lack of interest and motivation', she suggested putting me on testosterone and later a mood enhancer. (I'm 60 and I lost my wife to breast cancer about 3 years ago, so I guess the thinking was either that I was going through male menopause or just depressed over her passing.)

    Although I never had the muscle aches or liver problems that are considered the side effects of statins, gradually, I began to feel weaker (not uncommon at 60) and more lackadaisical in my approach to bills and  responsibilities. I also began suffering continual intense tinnitus and insomnia. I became crankier and more vehement in my dealings with other people and dangerously aggressive while driving.

    Oddly enough, my lack of concern with paying bills led to the pharmacist telling me that Blue Shield had canceled me. Although I could easily have called the doctor for a prescription for $5 statins through KMart, I just couldn't be bothered, so I discontinued my medication.

    It's been about 2 1/2 weeks since my prescription ran out. Within 4 days I began feeling better and my thinking became clearer. I no longer have tinnitus, my good mood has returned and I **actually** accept  life's small annoyances again. Finally, I feel better physically and am more motivated. (Unfortunately, now I have to clean up all the financial garbage I've accumulated in the last year or so.)

    If you take statins and begin to suffer any of the symptoms that I've noted above. **Tell** your doctor to take you off for a month. If your symptoms improve, you'll know why.

    Although I no longer have medical insurance, one requirement of the coverage was that my cholesterol be controllable with statins. I'd rather have a heart attack or stroke and die than to go back to being the useless walking zombie that I was.

    John B. Egan
    Grass Valley,CA

  • UrbaneGorilla

    2/28/2009 4:05:00 AM |

    Just want to add that I've changed my screen name. This post was an update to my prior January 24, 2009 post as jegan.

    What can i say. I feel more inventive these days.

    jegan aka Urbanegorilla. Wink

  • Anonymous

    1/4/2010 9:44:00 PM |

    My father has been on Lipitor for close to two years now.  He's getting almost daily "light-headed" symptoms (sometimes several times a day) where he explains that he becomes disoriented.  He'll ask me what day of the week it is.  Or completely forget a conversation we would just have.  It all comes back after a few minutes; but still very scary. As one commenter said, I too have been having trouble convincing people of his symptoms.  Doctors downplay it (and they shouldn't.  No matter how small the group experiencing this).  I'm trying to convince him to get off the statins and instead adopt a strict diet (no wheat/sugar etc. and lots of fish oil). He wont listen.  Does anyone know if this side effect can worsen with continued use? Can I have him take something (CoQ10)that may help lessen symptoms?

    -concerned son

  • UrbaneGorilla

    1/4/2010 10:58:43 PM |

    In response to anonymous who's father is suffering mental issues.. My doctors had no idea that depression, memory problems, unusual spontaneous anger and lack of interest could be caused by statins. My opinion is that pharma is not interested in publishing these matters. Why would they? They make a ton of money selling the products.

    If I hadn't forgotten to pay my Blue Cross bill I would never have known the difference as I was truly in a daze. Not only did I forget to pay the bill, but I couldn't develop enough interest to call either Blue Cross, or my doctor for a new prescription so I could go buy statins at KMart for $4.

    Tell your dad's doctor to take him off the drugs for 2 weeks..See how he feels after that time. He won't have a heart attack in that period but he may well recover as I did.

    Having said that, I still only feel partly improved but considerably so over my fugue state.

  • buy jeans

    11/2/2010 9:15:00 PM |

    In their defense (and in general I am no defender of the drug manufacturers), most people do fine with statin drugs, though the majority do eventually require coenzyme Q10 in my experience. By the way, coenzyme Q10 can be an indispensable aid to help tolerate statin agents.

  • simvastatin side effects

    5/8/2011 8:18:45 AM |

    As we all know, statins reduce the problem of people suffering from high cholesterol level. Some side effects of this drug may be eliminated with the help of coenzymes.