Have you heard the story about the frog in boiling water? The gist of the story is that a frog placed in boiling water will immediately jump out. However, if he is placed in a pot of cold water that is gradually brought to a boil, he will cook to his death. I can relate to that foolish frog in the pot of cold water. It’s a fitting metaphor for the nightmare my husband and I have been through due to his use of a prescribed statin drug.
I realize our story is long, but if you or someone you love is taking a statin drug, please continue to the end. I’m not selling anything or trying to lure you into a scam. This won’t cost you anything but your time. The purpose of this story is to help save others from the trouble we have experienced. A story like this could have saved us much suffering.
About twenty years ago, a routine physical exam that included blood work revealed that my husband’s HDL (good cholesterol) was low and his LDL (bad cholesterol) was very high. His triglycerides were way out of the “safe” range as well. As a result, his doctor prescribed Lipitor, a statin drug, to lower his cholesterol. At that time, my husband was in his forties.
Neither of us had ever taken any long-term prescription medicine, and, naturally, we were concerned about side effects. The only apparent risk was the possibility of muscle pain which could lead to damage. We were assured that regular blood tests would monitor to make sure that didn’t happen. Just like that frog, we began to swim complacently in the cool water.
Within a few years, my husband began to experience some pain in his legs. Remembering the side effects of statin drugs, he told the doctor that he thought the pain was being caused by his Lipitor. The doctor decided to change his Lipitor to another prescription. He prescribed Lovastatin, another statin drug. Now we were swimming in tepid water.
My husband is a farmer/rancher. That means his work is mostly manual labor. He services, repairs, and operates tractors, combines, other farm implements, and vehicles. He also raises cattle, hauls feed, builds fences and clears brush. He’s always been a very strong and muscular guy. A work day for him was usually from dawn to well past dusk.
Over the ten to fifteen years after he was prescribed the statins, changes took place in my husband’s body so gradually, we failed to be alarmed by them. After all, he was getting older. Isn’t it normal to have more aches and pains, less strength, and memory problems as you age? We thought so. After all, the water is only a little warm, right?
One of the first things that should have been a warning sign was a math problem. My husband was buying hay and trying to figure the amount of the check to write. He came into the house to find a calculator, complaining that he had always been able to figure those things in his head. Why was he having so much trouble now? We didn’t realize it, but the pot of water was heating up.
Bookkeeping is a very important part of farming, as with any business. Before we had children, I had done most of the bookkeeping. After our second child was born, my husband took over. He did the books himself for many years, until about ten years into his statin drug experience. He then hired someone to transfer information from bank statements and receipts to a bookkeeping system and to do our taxes. I thought little of it as I was working full time, and he was extremely busy. Besides farming, he was serving in our state legislature. He continued to do both jobs very well; he just had to work a lot harder. Putting 110% into whatever he was doing came naturally to him.
Over the years, my husband’s personality was undergoing a gradual change as well. He had always been a very jovial, witty conversationalist. He enjoyed talking with people and joked and laughed a lot. He even sang snippets of songs when something made him think of them. (He’s a very good singer.) After many years on the Lovastatin, he became more emotional, sullen, never sang, and rarely laughed. He even spoke to his doctor about feeling depressed for no reason. The doctor discussed some possibilities for help, but nothing was done. We hoped the depression was a temporary thing.
Signs and symptoms that we failed to put together were numerous. My husband would get increasingly frustrated filling out the annual financial statement for the bank that held our farm loan. What before had taken him a few hours, now took days or even weeks. He was much more tired at the end of every day. He didn’t seem to have the physical strength he’d had before. To top it off, he began to have tingling and numbness in his hands and pain in his arms. He was tested for carpal tunnel syndrome, but that wasn’t the problem. The tingling in his hands persisted, and he finally developed tremors in both hands.
Reading this, you may be thinking that all these things seem so obvious that it should have been clear to us what was happening. Hindsight is 20/20, as they say, and having put all the puzzle pieces together, we now see what was taking place over the course of about fifteen years. The occurrences were so spread out and random that they didn’t seem at all related – until the water came to a boil.
About two years ago, my husband began to lose weight, dramatically. Within the course of two months, he lost about forty pounds. At the same time, he was losing muscle integrity. His appetite was almost nonexistent.
His testosterone levels also took a steep dive. His doctor prescribed a topical testosterone supplement cream that had to be increased three times before it finally brought the levels into a normal range.
In addition to all of these physical problems, he was having serious memory glitches and troubling confusion. He was sent for a sonogram to check for blockages. Of course, there were none. A CT scan showed no sign of problems. Everything appeared normal.
Due to my husband’s muscle loss, which was the only side effect from statin drugs that I was aware of, I finally attributed his problems to the Lovastatin and made him stop taking it. I yanked him out of that boiling water just in the nick of time.
It has been over eighteen months since my husband took his last dose of Lovastatin. Since then, his muscle integrity has improved considerably. His appetite is nearly normal, and he has regained most of the weight he had lost. He is beginning to laugh more and even sings again once in a while. His physical health and his mood are much better. His testosterone levels have risen to above normal, and the supplement has been lowered to the original prescription. Best of all, very recently, the tremors in his hands stopped.
He is still a long way from recovery, however. The confusion, though not as severe as it was at the time he stopped taking the Lovastatin, still plagues him. It is much worse during stressful times like planting, harvesting, or equipment breakdowns. Working long hours in the summer heat usually brings on a setback. He sometimes struggles to make sense of even small things. He forgets in midsentence what he was going to say. People’s names and names of things elude him. He often forgets something that happened or was said only moments ago. He puts down tools and can’t remember where he put them. He doesn’t usually trust himself to go anywhere alone. He can walk into a store and not remember what he went in for. The frustration is agonizing. This is a man who was always very self-reliant and sure of what he was doing. He was always confident in his conversation.
There is apparently no standard medical treatment for these toxic effects of statins. For the past few months, I have been researching the adverse effects of statin drugs, searching for solutions. The research turned up numerous stories of people experiencing the same symptoms as my husband. Some of them suffered severe problems within a few days or weeks of taking statin drugs. Others, like my husband, took the statins for years before they became aware of any adverse effects. Stories abound, reported by people who lost their jobs because they could no longer think clearly enough to do their work or suffered permanent muscle damage and became debilitated. Some developed diabetes or kidney damage. A happy few reported complete recovery soon after stopping the statins.
The question is, if so many people have suffered similarly from using statin drugs, why is there no warning about these toxic effects? Why is it still so commonly prescribed? The only thing I could find close to a warning was that the FDA has expanded their advice on statin drugs. Their “advice” is that some statin users have reported memory loss and confusion. They also mention the possibility of developing type 2 diabetes when using statin drugs. Our complaint about my husband’s problem was filed with the FDA through MedWatch on July 12, 2016. It is my understanding that if enough people report problems; it is more likely something will be done.
There is conflicting information about the safety of statin drugs, but I think a lot of it is due to the fact that so many of these cases are not reported, or that people don’t even know their symptoms are caused by the statin drugs they take. Many of them are not reporting because they are too busy reeling from the crashing waves of distress brought on by the destructive effects of the statin drugs that were meant to benefit them. One medical opinion (one of the links below) that was based on the cases of cognitive damage reported to MedWatch concludes that every statin drug user’s chance of suffering some cognitive damage that may not be obvious is 100%. 100%!!! Is that not frightening?
The good news is that there is hope for recovery. At the end of this post, I am including links to some discussion threads and articles that discuss the adverse effects and recovery from statins. One of the most promising describes a low dose Benadryl therapy, which we have implemented. (Note: if you choose to try the Benadryl therapy, I would advise short term.)
My husband was already taking a regimen of supplements before he suffered the effects of Lovastatin. After researching statin recovery, we have added several more supplements and increased others he was already taking.
We initiated the therapy with Benadryl for my husband a few months ago. The dosage is evidently small enough that it doesn’t cause any drowsiness or other ill effects. He began with about half a child’s dose every three hours. He was not taking it very diligently at first. He missed several doses, and the time between doses was often more like six hours than three. A busy farmer is very difficult to tie down to a small dose of medicine every three hours, especially a farmer who is having memory lapses. It may also have been too early to tell if the Benadryl was working, although he did seem more aware of the fact that he was having trouble remembering things. For whatever reason, he didn’t seem to be making much improvement. After I finally found a recommended dosage formula, I increased his dose of Benadryl to a little more than half a child’s dose every three hours. Ironically, the tiny increase seemed to make a difference. At the same time, he began taking the Benadryl more regularly and was under less stress. All of these combined gave him better days than he’d had in a long time. The tremors stopped a couple of months after the Benadryl use became more regulated. Still, it appears the process of healing will be in baby steps.
Some doctors believe that statin drugs remove the protective cholesterol that plays an important role in the brain. (If I understand what I read correctly.) The low dose Benadryl somehow protects the cells from that vulnerability. (Once again, if I understand correctly.) There is also evidence that the Benadryl therapy can help those suffering from Lyme disease, MS, Parkinson’s disease, and even autism. If you or someone you love has any one of those maladies, it would be worth researching the low dose Benadryl therapy and giving it a try. The children’s liquid is the easiest to measure. The proper dosage is apparently 1mg for each 15 pounds of body weight every six hours. It seems to work best to divide that in half for a smaller dose every three hours. My husband takes 2.8 ml (roughly 7.2 mg) of the store brand children’s liquid every three hours (when I can tie him down). We also use the children’s rapid-melt tablets, cut in half. One-half tablet is a little less than the liquid dose, but these work best to send to the field with him or to take when traveling. (Once again, it would be wise to use Benadryl short term, not for a period of years.)
This article is definitely NOT meant to encourage anyone to stop taking medications prescribed by a doctor. I am not a doctor and have no license to give medical advice. My purpose is to share the effects of statin drugs that my husband has suffered. If you read this and are suffering from the same symptoms, perhaps it will help you understand what can be done for recovery. Hopefully, what you read here will refer you back to your doctor to ask questions. If you don’t like the answers you get or don’t get any answers, see another health care professional. Drugs can be dangerous, and doctors don’t always know all the adverse effects they can have. Besides that, contrary to popular belief, there is much evidence showing that cholesterol may be a valuable component to our health. Perhaps we are making ourselves vulnerable to disease by lowering it. Beware the pot of cool water. It may appear perfectly safe, but before you know it, it just might become deadly.
Please share this article with as many people as possible. Post it on Pinterest and Facebook. Share it on Twitter or email the link. If you have a personal story about the toxic effects of taking statin drugs, please tell us in a comment in the “Leave a Reply” box below. It may help someone else to make sense of his or her symptoms. Also, be sure to report your problems to the FDA here: https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/medwatch/index.cfm?action=reporting.home Click on the blue “Consumer/Patient” box on the right. That will open the form for your report.
You can find my first update to this article, which includes more information and links, here.
These are links referred to in the article above and others that may be helpful. I apologize if they are no longer active (some of the links may not work unless you copy and paste them into your browser):
https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Janine_Flory/publication/8139511_Randomized_trial_of_the_effects_of_simvastatin_on_cognitive_functioning_in_hypercholesterolemic_adults/links/0c96052cbe8e3de114000000.pdf (good article on study of statins and cognition)