Most of you that have read my books and articles on this site are familiar with the term statin associated transient global amnesia (TGA), one of the commonly reported cognitive deficits induced by statin drug use.
Other cognitive reactions are confusion, disorientation, forgetfulness and dementia. In TGA there is usually an abrupt and complete inability to formulate new memory associated with a retrograde loss of memory sometimes for decades past.
Although one afflicted with TGA has preserved the ability to speak, they are totally unable to communicate because they cannot remember what the other person has just said and have complete amnesia of their amnesia.
I have revealed the 662 cases of Lipitor® associated severe memory impairment ( including episodes of TGA ) reported to the FDA from 2000 through the year 2006. ( See Related Articles link.)
Extrapolating to the present, it is estimated that some 1,000 Medwatch/FDA reports have been made at the present time, just for Lipitor, and all statins are associated with this type of cognitive loss to some degree.
This figure of 1,000 just for Lipitor alone is only the reported number of the more typical cases of TGA. Generally TGA is defined as those amnestic episodes of an hour or so, lasting up to 24 hours.
Since there are no neurophysiological reasons why a TGA of much shorter duration, measured even in minutes, cannot occur and a person may well be alone during an episode without recall, one can deduce that the true incidence of statin associated TGA remains to be determined and could easily double the reported numbers.
A TGA occurring while the victim is alone may well result in chaos. If the retrograde amnesia extends back before the victim took their special training in operating an 18-wheeler truck, aircraft or heavy equipment, this unfortunate person with a TGA may wake up at totally unfamiliar controls.
In my second episode of Lipitor associated TGA, I was 13 years of age for 12 hours without the slightest recall of my 32 years as a medical doctor. According to my wife I laughed hysterically when they told me I was a medical doctor - the intense training and years of experience gone like a wisp of smoke.
Just as I had totally lost my medical skills, to wake up at the controls of an aircraft would be a disaster for some pilot whose TGA retrograded him to a time before he even flew his first solo.
And none of this surprise, horror and fear can be recalled when the TGA spell is over. Only through my patient wife could I learn how my hours in the emergency room had gone. All but my wife were strangers when I "awoke" and began to fully perceive my new reality.
Just what is one capable of when under the influence of TGA? One statin associated attempted homicide and one assault have been reported to me along with several suicide attempts and perhaps a dozen successful suicides where the surviving family/friends will swear the statin was causative.
The warm and friendly teacher who threw himself under a train last year. At the inquest, the coroner told the jury that in their verdict "You must include that the drug simvastatin was involved." ( See Related Articles link.)
The attempted homicide case involved a 76-year old man who "had never hurt a flea" but found the comments of an acquaintance too much to bear and stabbed him. On questioning he remembered nothing.
The assault case took place in a doctor's office. The last thing the patient recalled was he got angry when the doctor "blew off" his complaints about muscle pain and memory loss associated with his statin use.
The first indication he had of the assault was weeks later when he received notice that the doctor had so charged him and would now have to defend himself in court.
In none of these reports was a TGA implicated but who is to say that a TGA could not have been involved since they can last only for minutes - sufficient to explain their amnesia for the event?
This combination of TGA with the road rage type reaction now commonly reported with statin drug use is a particularly dangerous combination - one can "fly off the handle" with not a wisp of memory. An interesting parallel can be found in the legal dilemma of sleepwalking violence.
Duane Graveline MD MPH
Former USAF Flight Surgeon
Former NASA Astronaut
Retired Family Doctor