By Duane Graveline, M.D., M.P.H.
With many years of statin experience behind us, few clinicians would argue the effectiveness of this class of drugs in reducing cardiovascular disease risk. However, as the numbers of patients on statin drugs has increased and more side effect experience has been gained, we have now learned that adverse reactions from these drugs are of major concern.
When I started my research on Lipitor®, Mevacor® and Zocor®, the so-called stronger statins, reported side effects were primarily "a few aches and pains and occasional liver intolerance," arguably an acceptable price for society to pay for such a beneficial class of drugs. No longer does this come even close to the truth.
Of great concern today are the growing numbers of adverse drug reports associated with the use these drugs, reflecting dysfunction of many different body systems. As reported in my books in greater detail, first I learned about the reality of severe CoQ10 depletion from statin drug use, including Zocor ( simvastatin ), and realized that this one important constituent of the mevalonate pathway, by its deficiency, contributed to a majority of the side effects being reported.
My research next pointed to dolichols, known to be severely depleted by all statins. My books report about the vital role of dolichols in the placement of vital sugars on growing protein strands to form our thought, sensation and emotion as neuropeptides and glycoproteins. Altered phosphorylation with tau protein excess, another major consequence of Zocor and all other statins on our mevalonate pathway is a likely explanation for the World Health Organization report of increased numbers of ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig's disease) now being seen in statin users.
Recently we have learned that the permanent side effects from the use of Zocor - simvastatin - and other statins now implicate mitochondrial mutations. And these mutations are not just an isolated occurrence, they are all but inevitable because of the inhibitory effects of Zocor and all statins on CoQ10 bio-availability. CoQ10 reserves plummet when statins are used but when the mevalonate pathway is blockaded what else can you expect?
One of the primary functions of CoQ10 is antioxidation, to protect mitochondria from excess free radical buildup in this highly oxidative environment where energy in the form of ATP is formed. In the presence of excess free radicals the mutation rate of mitochondria, already some five times that of regular cells, rapidly accelerates. It is mitochondrial mutations that probably cause the permanent neuropathies, permanent myopathies, chronic neuromuscular degeneration and higher incidence of neurodegenerative illnesses such as Parkinsonism and ALS.
The research community increasingly is reporting the relationship of mitochondrial mutations to statin use. This is an ominous finding suggesting the subtle process of premature aging with its associated chronic illnesses of all kinds may, in itself, be a mitochondrial mutagenic side effect that Zocor therapy shares will all statins.
A word on the relationship of Zocor with Vytorin®. Please remember that the statin in Vytorin is Zocor ( generic name simvastatin ). It is important that you know this in order to understand the media releases about the Enhance study. Zocor is the identical statin in Vytorin and, incidentally, all this study did was show that adding Zetia® gave no extra benefit at all. It is the single most illustrative study yet done by the pharmaceutical industry to demonstrate the irrelevance of cholesterol to heart disease, something I have been saying for more than ten years now.
Here are some of the messages I have received from readers of my books and of websites on their personal experiences of Zocor Side Effects.
1.) I was placed on Zocor for high cholesterol (300), and after 2 years I was having great difficulty walking upstairs, painful when sitting, getting up, moving about. I was tired all the time, felt lousy, no energy. Since I am healthy other than this high cholesterol problem I could not understand what was wrong. Finally I found a medical doctor who also practices "eastern medicine" who spotted the problem right away. He took me off of this medication from (hell), giving me natural supplements, and I no longer had any problems and my cholesterol dropped down to below 200. Why doctors prescribe the medications that are known to harm people is a mystery to me. Thank you for at least researching this and writing this book
2.) Our problems started Sept 15 2003. My husband at the age of 49 had a heart attack, He had a quad-by pass 2 days later. Then on to the "cocktail of heart meds" the Zocor 20 mg, Niaspan 1000 ER, Enalapril 10 mg, Toprol XL 25 mg, Aspirin 325 mg, and then they put him on Celebrex and ibuprofen 800 mg. After the heart surgery his neck started hurting and finally a MRI said that he had arthritis and mass effects of it through out the area.
Never had this problem before the surgery... it was within a couple of months that I really noticed the change in Him... Could not remember things... other times we would be going somewhere (where we have been many times) and forget how to get there and where he was going... His boss even told him that maybe he should quit (he is a service manager ) as he could not remember anything.. Asked the heart doctor said there is no way... family doctor the same thing, then he would stumble around the house and out walking ( like he was drunk )
Then it started.... he was not the same person I married 30 years ago. His personality changed, his talking stopped, he told them I know what I want to say, but it does not come out or not the way I want. His legs would just kill him hurting the muscle part and then the joints started..... It kept getting worse, started doing research and with him having LOW Cholesterol ( all of it, total, HDL, LDL, trig. ) I found out that he should be taking coq 10. Asked the doctors oh it is nothing, statins don't cause that. Asked them if they had read research about the side effects and what some people are having to go through. They thought I was nuts and my husband did go off all meds and went on supplements and vitamins back in June.
Starting to feel better but not all the way. They all tell him he is depressed. Now he has a new doctor (family ) told him all that has happened and how he felt, They did blood work it could not be statins as the blood work was fine ! hahaha. Now his cholesterol is on the high side, but HDL is still to low... so want him back on Lipitor, told the doctor would rather have something else for him. He looked at me and told me I was trying to kill my husband, He looked at him and said she must have a big life insurance policy on you, by that time I was so ticked off I could had blew steam... told him no, I would be lucky to have enough to bury him, I am trying to keep him healthy and alive.
He had the shuffle, hard time getting up, from a chair.. He has not filled the prescripiton yet, as I won't do it.. He now has high blood pressure now, and is a diabetic, and metabolic problems. None of this before the heart attack that we knew about... I don't ever say good things about statins. I to took lipitor for a couple of years to get my cholesterol down, it never did, but no side effects. Just wished you could get the doctors to listen to you and understand that these pains are real... and the side effects of these meds: they give you a med, to cover up a problem and then give you another problem...and so on... I will be getting your books and reading them. I am on the war about this stuff as well. I have gotten him on the research for Beatrice Golomb... they have wrote back and said maybe we should try this and this... who would had thought life would turn out this way... thank you so much for listening to us, and knowing what we have went through. GOD BLESS YOU
3.) I was put on Zocor for about six years (10 mg only). This was to correct high cholesterol, which cannot be reduced by dieting. I have recently stopped taking it after reading many chat rooms and people's experiences with statins. I developed lower back pain, which according to my Chiropractor has been caused by incorrect posture but I have my doubts about this. My neck was apparently not straight and I had the habit of leaning to one side. I have also recently developed an overactive bladder (always wanting to go to the loo!) I have not suffered memory loss but am concerned about this.
4.) I am a 58-year old former Navy pilot who still flies for pleasure. A week ago Monday I had what the doctor initially classified as a TIA, although I had no physical symptoms, only memory loss. After seeing a neurologist and getting the whole battery of tests, she classified it as a TGA. I have been on statins for years, and about 18 months ago my physician increased my dose of Zocor from 20mg to 40mg. My wife of 4 years has said she has noticed changes in my personality and memory in the last year or so.
I recently passed my 3rd class medical and had actually been flying with an instructor on Sunday. I was concerned about the restrictions the TGA would cause to my flying and started researching TGAs on the Internet, where I found your web site. I provided information from your site to my neurologist. She then went back through all the literature she had received from the drug companies on statins and could find no mention of TGAs as possible side effects. She was very concerned and plans to contact the drug companies directly.
5.) I had a small heart attack in 1997 and as a result have been on Zocor and other meds since then. I was on 10 mg and after a few months I noticed that my memory was deteriorating, which I thought was caused by my age and was what my Doctor told me. I'm now 86 years old. About two years ago I talked to my doctor about the problem and he suggested that I stop taking the Zocor, which I did for about six months. During that time I did not find any change in my memory so at the next appointment with my doctor we discussed taking a lower dosage of 5 mg, which I've been on since last October. My memory has not changed for better or worse so I assume that Zocor has affected my memory to the point of no return.
7.) I have had two cases of loss of memory within a month. They have only lasted for about ten minutes and all seems to come back. I forget where I am and what I was doing. I have been on Simvastatin for two years. Started out with 10mg then recently was increased to 20mg. However I didn't look on the bottle when it arrived and I started with just a half pill. After this episode of memory loss and listening to you on a radio show I checked my bottle and found that the prescription was for 80mg, so I had been taking half a pill, which was 40mg. I've cut it back to about 10mg now but I'm thinking of stopping it altogether. The doctors haven't figured out what is going on yet but I'm suspicious that it is the medicine.
My purpose is not to malign a drug or class of drugs, which are of such established benefit to public health. I wish only to present the true legacy of Zocor and other statin drugs to physicians and their patients.
Duane Graveline MD MPH
Former USAF Flight Surgeon
Former NASA Astronaut
Retired Family Doctor
Updated July 2011