Statin Diary

Here are a sampling of some of the comments I've received from people taking statin drugs:

Barkeater said:

On Lipitor since 1997, and pretty sure I had no side effects. Hey, I am a man, I don't complain.

Work has gotten real challenging (but they pay me well). At age 52, 2 years ago, I was fed up with working hard, cranky, and wanted to quit. Very low tolerance for frustration. A year ago, I hit a low spot again, but knowing that quitting was not an option, I started pestering my wife about things married people quarrel about other than money. No matter how great she was, every month or so I would get in a complete funk about it. Meanwhile, my brother had an MI, freaking me out, so at my doctor's suggestion I doubled the Lipitor dose (to 40 mg a day), bringing LDL below 100 and total chol. to 162 (40% below what God's original design of me produced). Plus, I ached a lot after exercise with severe "arthritis" in my hip, and these pains took days to go away, and still I got mad every few weeks at my wife and otherwise into a depressed funk (one morning I wrote an essay about suicide, which was much on my mind). Mood swings could be sudden.

She finally asked whether it might be the Lipitor, which I dismissed as very unlikely because I wanted to believe I was controlling my anger and depression better at that point (not really so) and besides everyone knows that statins have very few side effects. But, I did poke around a bit, and saw that kooky internet people seemed to have a lot of statin side effects, including depression. So, I thought I would quit, as an experiment. Like the JUPITER study, the results were so stunning I had to end the experiment in just 48 hours, except unlike JUPTIER, the clear result was that statins are nasty poisins that were ruining my life. I quickly concluded that no statin would again pass my lips. Depression, gone immediately (I am now 45 days off Lipitor). Relationship with wife, great (maybe "saved" is the word). Athletic performance, vastly better (adjusted for my modest natural abilities), with aches reduced vastly. Ability to withstand frustration, zoomed way way up. I feel totally different, and better; I think of my high cholesterol as my friend, protecting my from the abyss.

The other exciting thing is that I was depending on Lipitor to prevent heart disease, but I see now that it was only a raffle in which I had one ticket, with 75 or 100 other ticket holders in the NNT raffle (to prevent a survivable coronary in the next ten years, but not to prevent death -- that is not a prize in this raffle). There are obviously way better things I can do for prevention, at low cost and no negative side effects (plenty of positive ones, though).

I feel ten years younger. I refer to quitting Lipitor as my "miracle cure." I feel a moral obligation to warn others.

Anonymous said:

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 site 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.

Tom said:

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.

Veedubmom said:

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.

Jegan said:

I was on Lipitor, but as a result of a 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 a 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.

Terri SL said:

Statin side effects are, in my personal experience, vastly under-reported. What Dr. in practice takes the time to fill out FDA complaint forms or contacts independent researchers about a pts. side effects? What pt. even knows that they can do so, whether their Dr. wants them to or not? No surprise about that 80% if you've taken statins!

I've personally taken two different statins (Pravachol, Zocor/Vytorin) and developed horrendous muscle aches even while taking CoQ-10 200 mgs. daily in divided dose. I also experienced mental fuzziness, gait instability and near complete GI shutdown, when Dr. doubled statin dosage against my protests. Stop the drug = complete reversal within ~three days!

What seems to be consistent is the dosage of the statin... the higher the dose, or the more potent the statin (Lipitor, Crestor), the greater the chance of adverse side effects. The other consistency is that Drs. out there in practice are not recommending CoQ-10 to their patients on statins, or at least that has been my experience.

Am I advocating that everyone stop their statin drug? No, I am not.

What I am advocating is that statins be used carefully, after all efforts at correction of lipid/lipoprotein patterns have been made, with an assessment of true coronary risk (not such nonsense as the Framingham score). A more reasonable application of statin drug prescription would shrink the market from its current $27 billion to a tiny fraction of that.

These drugs can be useful but are miserably and tragically overused.
For a discussion of an alternative to statins for LDL cholesterol reduction, see my post, Which is better?

Comments (17) -

  • homertobias

    3/1/2009 4:06:00 PM |

    Dr Davis,

    Please give us your take on KIF6.  I know that the data in some ways is preliminary.  All that I can seem to find is the 3 JACC articles in 1/08.  2 of them simply show a high prevalence of the arg/trp or arg/arg variant. But the study showing a statistical difference in MI/ Cardiac Death in as little as 30 months comparing 40 pravachol vs 80 lipitor is impressive.  Statins do save lives so they are ok with me.  It is just that the number needed treat/ number needed to harm ratio is too high.  KIF6 has the potential to cut the number needed to treat in half.

  • Anonymous

    3/1/2009 5:56:00 PM |

    Co-incidentally I am about to go off my Crestor (40mg) for a "rest". I need to loose weight (5'7" and 195lb) but when I started my p90x program, I found that those annoying muscle aches in my left arm and right hand were such that I could not do a single pull up.  My Dr. asked that I stay on the higher dose of Crestor and supplement with CoQ10.  I will add CoQ10 to the fish oil, Niacin and vitamin D I am taking.  I'm going to start Vitamin K2 supplementation too (Canada does not allow high dose for some strange reason). But more than anything, recognizing some of the side effects I have read here, I think a break from Crestor is  overdue for me.

  • steve k

    3/1/2009 9:44:00 PM |

    there is no shortage of criticism on this blog of statins and they certainly are over prescribed.  the real question is: when and only when should they be tried?  It would be helpful if you posted on this now that you have carefully gone in to some of the negatives of statins, but also, acknowledged their value.

  • Anonymous

    3/2/2009 12:10:00 AM |

    What about women with high cholesterol without (overt) heart disease or a family history of heart disease? Some say that older women with high cholesterol live longer and better. This certainly has been true in my family. The women live to 90's without heart disease, total cholesterols 220-250 LDL certainly higher than the current "normal/optimal" but with high HDL and low triglycerides.

  • Bruce

    3/2/2009 2:24:00 AM |

    Hey there, Dr. Davis. Where are all the testimonials from people who have no side effects from statins and are doing just fine with lowered LDL levels?

    Or does your profit incentive prohibit you from being fair and balanced, just like the pharmaceutical industry.

    I dare you to publish this post. Not doing do will reveal your true intentions.

  • Dr. William Davis

    3/2/2009 2:44:00 AM |

    Steve and Bruce--

    I am mindful of the fact that representatives of the pharmaceutical industry troll the blogosphere and internet in order to post comments to counter the rapidly growing rejection of the statin franchise. If you work for Pfizer, AstraZeneca, et al, I would kindly ask you to mind your own business.

    If you do not, then please recognize that what I say is said because of the overwhelming influence of the drug industry. It is a David vs. Goliath world. The drug industry does not need to be defended. They would willingly take as much of your money and your insurer's money as possible. Their goals have little to do with health, but everything to do with profit.

    If you have fallen victim to their brand of Kool Aid, then perhaps it's time for a little reality check.

  • Trinkwasser

    3/2/2009 2:25:00 PM |

    Yet more scary but interesting stuff!

    I was put on lipitor but had a (rare but reported) side effect that in retrospect was BG lowering over and above the reactive hypos I was already suffering

    Switched to simvastatin and have been on it ever since, it appears to do exactly what it says on the tin, halves my LDL without affecting the lethal trigs and HDL (diet fixed them)

    NOW I'm wondering if my apparent senility attacks are in fact not due to advancing age. In typing this I have already done several letter pair reversals. I actually forgot to make an appointment for my blood tests which ironically I am now going to blame on the statin (grins) I was going to drop them for a month prior to the next tests but maybe I am going to drop them now.

    Why? I have also begun getting tinnitus. The trigger factor appeared to be NSAIDS, even ointment was bringing it on. Now I'm getting it even without these.

    I suspect statin side effects are still rare compared to the percentage of people who don't get them BUT with an increasing statinised population there's a low percentage of a huge population now reporting in, hence the apparently increased incidence.

  • steve

    3/2/2009 2:44:00 PM |

    DR Davis:
    i do not work for big pharma or any medical or health related profession, and am only interested when statins should be prescribed since my NMR results showed high small LDL despite my not eating wheat,using fish oils, taking D3 as you suggest. Since my Doc says statin time, i am only trying to get the best info in light of all negative publicity.
    Perhaps you read my comment to fast; it was not advocating them, but asking since you in your post allude to possible cases when it should be used.  Your comment to me is therefore way out of line.

  • Scott Miller

    3/2/2009 9:49:00 PM |

    I fall on the side of believing that statins should never be prescribed.  From my understanding, while there's a slight indication that they can reduce cardiovascular events, they DO NOT reduce all-cause mortality.  This strongly suggests that they are mostly ineffective at doing what they're touted to do, and they introduce a new set of problems that can reduce the patients quality and length of life.

    The purported benefits of statins, in all cases, can be beaten handily by a change of diet and supplements.

    I think your personal practice is a testament to this, and yet you still leave several diet and supplement tactics on-the-table that could improve the results you could achieve. (I base this on reading every entry in your blog, and listening to your podcasts with Jimmy Moore.)

    I love that you're well ahead of 99.999% of the other cardiologists.

    I would like to know of any situation that you can quickly describe in which a statin makes sense.  I have an open mind about this, and perhaps you can convince me that such cases exist.

  • Trinkwasser

    3/3/2009 12:21:00 PM |

    Stop press, dropped last night's statin and already the tinnitus is much reduced. It was never bad but was increasing and I thought its prevalence at night was due to quietness of the environment not to the fact I'd just taken the statin.

    Now in the past I'd dropped the things for a month on month off trial which is why I am confident there were THEN no noticeable side effects.

    SSRI poop-out is a well known phenomenon and the explanation used to be that while they upregulated serotonin, over time they would then downregulate dopamine in some individuals.

    Most statin side effects I've heard of seem to be fairly instant, now I'm wondering if there's a similar temporal effect whereby some side effects don't develop for months or even years. This might explain why reports of problems are increasing over time even faster than the population is becoming statinised

  • Anonymous

    3/14/2009 7:39:00 PM |

    Just wanted to report back on the break I have taken from 40mg Crestor.  Although I posted here on March 1st, I was really hesitant to stop since I was off on a business trip and not going to be too careful about diet.

    Anyhow, full 10 days without Crestor and I have ZERO arm aches and have no issue doing chin ups (well, I can do some and all without the sharp "broken bone" pain).

    I know I'm going to end up back on Statins as I really hate eating meat, but while I am trimming down, I will stay off them for maybe 3 or 4 months then get a blood test before asking the primary care phys for a dose recommendation.

  • drarvay

    8/8/2010 12:24:56 AM |

    An Appeal for Support and Conformation of MRI Results

    My daughter has lived with ALS-like symptoms for almost 3 years. The worst of the symptoms began when her simvastatin was increased to 80mg in 2008.
    Her MRIs show LESIONS in the brain stem, specifically in the PONS area of her brain.
    Of course, her 4 physicians refuse to believe that a statin is involved. They are all satisfied with the diagnosis of “Ataxia”.

    My Appeal is to all those who are/were on statins and have similar brain lesions as shown and documented in MRIs. Please reply here, or contact her father directly: Dr Stephen Arvay,

  • buy jeans

    11/2/2010 7:35:02 PM |

    What I am advocating is that statins be used carefully, after all efforts at correction of lipid/lipoprotein patterns have been made, with an assessment of true coronary risk (not such nonsense as the Framingham score). A more reasonable application of statin drug prescription would shrink the market from its current $27 billion to a tiny fraction of that.

  • simvastatin side effects

    5/9/2011 1:57:14 AM |

    when taking statins, follow doctors advice, take the drugs according to doctors prescription, the  drug carefully to be safe.

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