Experts Warn Of Adverse Effects From Cholesterol Medication

Cholesterol-lowering drugs are used by millions of Americans.

Although the drugs are highly effective in lowering cholesterol, some experts said they pose some serious risks many people, including doctors, may not be aware of.

Memory loss, nerve damage and muscle weakness are just some of the side effects that could be linked to statins, according to studies on cholesterol medication.

"My daughter was actually looking for an Alzheimer's unit for me because how of bad it had gotten,” said Jane Brunize.

Brunzie’s cholesterol was sky high, so her doctor put her on increasing doses of cholesterol medication. It was then that Brunzie and her family began to notice changes.

"I couldn't remember what I was trying to say," said Brunzie.

She was suffering a serious side effect from her cholesterol medication, Lipitor. It was a side effect her doctor never mentioned.

"Because there is this perception that these drugs are so safe, at least according to patients, many of their doctors tell them they have no side effects," said University of California, San Diego statin researcher Beatrice Golumb.

Golumb heads a worldwide study on the effects of statin drugs. She said patients on statins are at an increased risk for developing muscle weakness, nerve damage and even cancer. She said she is worried doctors are not warning patients about these risks.

"Your doctor may be unfamiliar with the side effects of these drugs because there is relatively little information dissemination about them," added Golumb.

Brunzie’s memory loss was severe and was similar to someone with Alzheimer’s disease.

"We have had other people who have contacted us that were actually diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease by their physicians," said Golumb.

If you are concerned about the possibility of side effects of your cholesterol medication, you can become part of a worldwide study with the click of a mouse.

Golumb and her colleagues have created a Web site for anyone using statins to report adverse effects.

This new tool offers doctors and researchers a new way to evaluate long-term adverse effects of cholesterol-lowering medications.

Many people concerned about possible adverse effects hope this worldwide database of information would help doctors and patients recognize problems with side effects sooner.

Brunzie was lucky her family realized a possible problem and she stopped taking statins.

“Within a week, I had my mind back," said Brunzie.

Now, she hopes other people taking cholesterol medications will question their doctors more thoroughly.

"I wonder how many people are taking statin drugs and have lost their quality of life thinking, ‘It’s just getting older,’" said Brunzie.

Some studies suggest the use of statins is linked to:

  • Memory loss
  • Muscle weakness
  • Nerve damage
  • Cancer
  • Insomnia
  • Personality and behavior changes
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • You can log onto UCSD’s statin study Web site to report side effects by clicking here.

    Print this article Back to Top