Cholesterol medication controversy

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At least one in 10 Australians aged over 65 takes cholesterol-lowering medication. The most commonly prescribed are statins such as atorvastatin, simvastatin and rosuvastatin. According to an article in the June edition of Australian Prescriber, however, the risk of the side effects of these drugs in older people may outweigh the benefits of remaining on statins.

The authors of the article, Associate Professor Sarah Hilmer and Dr Danijela Gnjidic of the University of Sydney, explained that research has shown statins to lower the chance of a heart attack in older people who have suffered one previously. The benefit of statins in those aged over 70 who do not already have heart disease is less clear.

“Statins can cause side effects, and these are more likely in people aged over 70, especially those taking several other medicines … Muscle pain or muscle damage are the most common side effects that cause people to stop treatment. Statins can also cause liver problems … Statins have also been found to contribute to memory loss or confusion in some people.” These quotes from the article outline just how serious the side effects of statins can be.

It is important that you don’t stop or change the way you are taking medication before consulting your doctor – stopping suddenly can be damaging to your health, depending on what drug you are taking. If, however, you are concerned or have questions about the medication you are taking, consulting your doctor is the best way to get answers. They will be able to help you weigh up the benefits and harms of a particular drug.

You can read the full article by downloading the June issue of Australian Prescriber

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93 Comments

Total Comments: 93
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    My husband was prescribed statins for nearly 30 years then he decided to be more pro-active in looking after his health. He began walking daily, cut out all sugar as far as possible from his diet, shed 16kg in weight and 15 cms from around his waist and, after discussing it with his GP, stopped taking the statins. At his last two health checks his cholesterol has remained stable and well within the normal guidelines. Far better, if possible, to live a healthy lifestyle than to rely on a chemical fix.

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      I hope your husband continues to be well. My GP recently told me my cholesterol was heading up, although not high enough to be dangerous or require medication. I was not yet in the overweight zone. However, I introduced more vegetables into my diet, cut back on animal fats and without any real hassle on my part my weight started slowly creeping down. I’ve only lost about 3kg but, as I say, with only minor diet adjustment. I also lift weights, but need to walk more. I’ve yet to have my follow-up cholesterol check but I’m optimistic there’s improvement.

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      Way to go SuzeB. I hope all your hard work pays dividends at your next check up.

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      I was taken into Hospital three years ago re rapid heart beat that just wouldnt calm down…I had several thoughtful ideas and diagnoes from several Drs…I was promptly put onto statins, Warfarin, and many other tablets which were mounting up by the week…I felt so ill that I truly thought I would die…..side affects were terrible…so each tablet had to be stopped down now to one tab low dosage fr heart health, chlorestrol to date…The side affects re warfarin were ballooning legs, shiny red and stiff…..I frankly told the Spec that I wouldnt take them anymore and he eventually agreed there may be no apparent need and it didnt really matter….stations well I was vomitting daily and even when I went a train ride had to get out the train to vomit….I was tired all the time my blood like pale pink water….and I could go on and on…I had never been under the Dr in either this country or others I had lived in before so all these toxins would have been a lethal chemical mix to my body……now my obs are normal and have been if ever they were not in the first place…..I`m aging now gracefull and happiliy but need to say that be very careful what you are all taking as it isnt always the best way to go….My muscles were almost destroyed etc and the hair fall was and still is bad too…..I had electric shock treatment to correct the hearbeat…I found out since that whenever I do get extremely hot my heart starts to race…….

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    After my first heart attack I was put on this medication by the hospital cardiologists after the instillation of a stent.

    My GP took me off them, as I don’t have high cholesterol.

    The cardiologists put me back on them after my second heart attack & again my GP took me off them.

    After my third heart attack a cardiologist finally started answering some of my questions. Have you noticed that medical doctors seem to assume all patients are idiots who could never understand anything?

    From her I learned that in my case the medication was not to treat cholesterol in my blood, but to consolidate that which was already lining my arteries, making it less likely to flake off. It is the bits flaking off that were giving me my attacks, fortunately for me, reasonably mild attacks. That was 5 years ago, after 3 attacks in 26 months.

    I do have most of the symptoms mentioned, but then so do most clapper out old farts my age, so I’ll stick with the medication for now.

    Are you surprised that I now have a different GP?

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      I know exactly what you been through…We seem to live in a world now that pill popping is the norm…I chat to many on the internet from many countries and they say the same they are all on this preventative medication…The Dr on my radio station talks about the recently found info from either BMJ or others and to date he reckons there has never even been a paper written as to any better health from taking all these pills….I feel better than ever now and apart from artritis in the fingers and a few bones at times reckon I`m doing good as you say for an old F…..t…..My parents and rellies never even went to any Drs..altho Mum used to and take me with her…..I remember him sitting there an d telling Mum all about health probs etc and how to keep as healthy as poss…when we left his rooms it was down to the surgery where his lady there would make up an Iron tonic for me…Gee no wonder I`m as good as I am…all that iron……People used to live to really old age too and I well remember the old chap next door leaning on the front garden gate and a word or two with anyone who stopped by….he was over 100 when he never woke up and I dont think he ever saw a Dr in his life…..

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    When I was working in pathology at Westmead hospital, western Sydney, we had a lot of muscle biopsies, with the clinical details :” Lipitor induced polymysitis” (inflammation of many muscles ). I was on lipitor, and went and told the pathologist who had a cardiac clinic about that, and he put me on Crestor. I have never had a problem and have my liver function tests regularly, always in the middle of normal range, except for one of them (GGT) but that was because my cholesterol was raised in the beginning: 6.7. Many years ago , it was 8.2, and my GP did nothing then. I put myself on lots of oatbran , and fish 2 – 3 times a week, came down to 6.7. So speak to your GP about Crestor, if you are on statins.

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    I am 72, and have been on this (Crestor) for 9 years.

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      PRETTY BIRD, YOU ARE RIGHT, ALL THE MEDICATIONS FOR THIS HAVE THE STATINS, I WAS PUT ON LIPITOR ABOUT 6 YEARS AGO, I WAS TOLD NOTHING ABOUT ANY SIDE AFFECTS, OVER THE NEXT FEW MONTHS I WAS GETTING MUSCLE CRAMPS, ESP IN MY LEGS, IT WAS AGONY, IT WAS ONLY WHEN I STARTED TO GET LUMPS IN MY BREAST, THINKING I HAD BREAST CANCER, THAT THE DOC. INFORMED ME IIT WAS THE LIPITOR, HE THEN CHANGED THE MEDICATION, BUT GOT THE CRAMPS WITH THEM ALL, I NOW HAVE TO TRY AND KEEP IT IN CHECK WITH DIET, I DO WALK APP. 10K A DAY, AND EAT FISH AT LEAST 3 TIMES A WEEK, IT IS GRADUALLY GOING DOWN, BUT AFTER A SMALL STROKE 2 YEARS AGO, HAVE TO BE CAREFUL.

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      PRETTY BIRD, YOU ARE RIGHT, ALL THE MEDICATIONS FOR THIS HAVE THE STATINS, I WAS PUT ON LIPITOR ABOUT 6 YEARS AGO, I WAS TOLD NOTHING ABOUT ANY SIDE AFFECTS, OVER THE NEXT FEW MONTHS I WAS GETTING MUSCLE CRAMPS, ESP IN MY LEGS, IT WAS AGONY, IT WAS ONLY WHEN I STARTED TO GET LUMPS IN MY BREAST, THINKING I HAD BREAST CANCER, THAT THE DOC. INFORMED ME IIT WAS THE LIPITOR, HE THEN CHANGED THE MEDICATION, BUT GOT THE CRAMPS WITH THEM ALL, I NOW HAVE TO TRY AND KEEP IT IN CHECK WITH DIET, I DO WALK APP. 10K A DAY, AND EAT FISH AT LEAST 3 TIMES A WEEK, IT IS GRADUALLY GOING DOWN, BUT AFTER A SMALL STROKE 2 YEARS AGO, HAVE TO BE CAREFUL.

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      PRETTY BIRD, YOU ARE RIGHT, ALL THE MEDICATIONS FOR THIS HAVE THE STATINS, I WAS PUT ON LIPITOR ABOUT 6 YEARS AGO, I WAS TOLD NOTHING ABOUT ANY SIDE AFFECTS, OVER THE NEXT FEW MONTHS I WAS GETTING MUSCLE CRAMPS, ESP IN MY LEGS, IT WAS AGONY, IT WAS ONLY WHEN I STARTED TO GET LUMPS IN MY BREAST, THINKING I HAD BREAST CANCER, THAT THE DOC. INFORMED ME IIT WAS THE LIPITOR, HE THEN CHANGED THE MEDICATION, BUT GOT THE CRAMPS WITH THEM ALL, I NOW HAVE TO TRY AND KEEP IT IN CHECK WITH DIET, I DO WALK APP. 10K A DAY, AND EAT FISH AT LEAST 3 TIMES A WEEK, IT IS GRADUALLY GOING DOWN, BUT AFTER A SMALL STROKE 2 YEARS AGO, HAVE TO BE CAREFUL.

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      PRETTY BIRD, YOU ARE RIGHT, ALL THE MEDICATIONS FOR THIS HAVE THE STATINS, I WAS PUT ON LIPITOR ABOUT 6 YEARS AGO, I WAS TOLD NOTHING ABOUT ANY SIDE AFFECTS, OVER THE NEXT FEW MONTHS I WAS GETTING MUSCLE CRAMPS, ESP IN MY LEGS, IT WAS AGONY, IT WAS ONLY WHEN I STARTED TO GET LUMPS IN MY BREAST, THINKING I HAD BREAST CANCER, THAT THE DOC. INFORMED ME IIT WAS THE LIPITOR, HE THEN CHANGED THE MEDICATION, BUT GOT THE CRAMPS WITH THEM ALL, I NOW HAVE TO TRY AND KEEP IT IN CHECK WITH DIET, I DO WALK APP. 10K A DAY, AND EAT FISH AT LEAST 3 TIMES A WEEK, IT IS GRADUALLY GOING DOWN, BUT AFTER A SMALL STROKE 2 YEARS AGO, HAVE TO BE CAREFUL.

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      PRETTY BIRD, YOU ARE RIGHT, ALL THE MEDICATIONS FOR THIS HAVE THE STATINS, I WAS PUT ON LIPITOR ABOUT 6 YEARS AGO, I WAS TOLD NOTHING ABOUT ANY SIDE AFFECTS, OVER THE NEXT FEW MONTHS I WAS GETTING MUSCLE CRAMPS, ESP IN MY LEGS, IT WAS AGONY, IT WAS ONLY WHEN I STARTED TO GET LUMPS IN MY BREAST, THINKING I HAD BREAST CANCER, THAT THE DOC. INFORMED ME IIT WAS THE LIPITOR, HE THEN CHANGED THE MEDICATION, BUT GOT THE CRAMPS WITH THEM ALL, I NOW HAVE TO TRY AND KEEP IT IN CHECK WITH DIET, I DO WALK APP. 10K A DAY, AND EAT FISH AT LEAST 3 TIMES A WEEK, IT IS GRADUALLY GOING DOWN, BUT AFTER A SMALL STROKE 2 YEARS AGO, HAVE TO BE CAREFUL.

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      PRETTY BIRD, YOU ARE RIGHT, ALL THE MEDICATIONS FOR THIS HAVE THE STATINS, I WAS PUT ON LIPITOR ABOUT 6 YEARS AGO, I WAS TOLD NOTHING ABOUT ANY SIDE AFFECTS, OVER THE NEXT FEW MONTHS I WAS GETTING MUSCLE CRAMPS, ESP IN MY LEGS, IT WAS AGONY, IT WAS ONLY WHEN I STARTED TO GET LUMPS IN MY BREAST, THINKING I HAD BREAST CANCER, THAT THE DOC. INFORMED ME IIT WAS THE LIPITOR, HE THEN CHANGED THE MEDICATION, BUT GOT THE CRAMPS WITH THEM ALL, I NOW HAVE TO TRY AND KEEP IT IN CHECK WITH DIET, I DO WALK APP. 10K A DAY, AND EAT FISH AT LEAST 3 TIMES A WEEK, IT IS GRADUALLY GOING DOWN, BUT AFTER A SMALL STROKE 2 YEARS AGO, HAVE TO BE CAREFUL.

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      Any medication you take has some side effects. When you purchase it from your chemist it usually has a pamphlet with it indicating what those side effects are. Most pamphlets also indicate you should go to their website and read the full information. Most people never read these pamphlets they think the doctor is GOD and wouldn’t prescribe anything to them that would harm them. You are responsible for your own health, no matter what. I’m 72 next month and do not take any prescribed medication whatsoever. I am one of the lucky ones. I had a slightly swollen right knee maybe 4/5 years ago (beginnings of osteoarthritis) and went to my GP (who I have visited 3 times in 13 years) and he suggested I take fish oil (which I didn’t) and Glucosame 1500, vitamin C powder (whichI didn’t) and multiBgroup vitamins (which I didn’t). I decided on Glucosamine after studying about it and EPO (evening primrose oil instead of fish oil). Within about 2-3 months I had no sign of pain in the knee and no discomfort. I still take both those items religiously because if I go away for a week or two to visit friends etc. I never take these pills/capsules with me and I always start to feel the twinge in the knee. You can’t get rid of osteoarthritis but you can control it.
      Instead of buying vitamin c tablets or powders, I have a more natural method.
      I have a Lemon Tree. I pick two lemons, wash them, squeeze the juice from them and put the juice in a blender. I then chop up the skin/pith into little pieces, pop the skin/pith into a saucepan and cover it with water. Bring it to a simmer, and simmer for 20 minutes. Add this to the lemon juice in the blender and add a big tablespoon of pure honey and blend. As it blends it starts to look like “lemon curd”. I then pour it into a glass jar and keep it in the fridge. Every morning I take a dessertspoonful of this mixture and eat it. This is my pure vitamin C daily intake. My honey comes from a cousin who has beehives and produces his own, so I know I’m getting the absolutely purest of honey. He also gives me honeycomb too.
      Another good way to eat the lemon mixture is to spread it on your toast instead of jam (much better for you). It is a bit tarty, but you can add a little more honey to the mix, if you wish.

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      thanks Egyptian, I love lemons so will try it. I have a lemonade lemon tree YUMMMMMMM!!! I had to laugh at your “(I didn’t)’s . I do the same thing except sometimes I even tell the Dr what is wrong with me and what I need 🙂

      Again, thanks for the tip.

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    I have never had a choice as my husband has been on lipitor for at least 15 years and before his operation went on a strict diet & daily walks I used to walk 10 miles but he would only manage about three and we would meet then come home. In only 2 weeks before his operation he went down from &.6 to 3.5 yet his doctor said it was impossible but his cardiologist saw different. Unfortunately I wasn’t given any choice have only ever had lipitor but as my 2nd last blood test proved my cholesterol going down and my GP not very likely to change them. As the last test was exceptionally low I took myself off them. But then I went up again not dangerously high but a bit higher. However now am due for another blood test & if I am still low I will ask for a change. I don’t believe in Lipitor or any other drugs most of the time.

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      EGYPTION,the lemon and honey mixture sounds ok, will give it a try, i like the tangy taste,so stronger the better, certainly cant hurt,and the vitamin c with the lemons will be a bonus, thanks for that one,

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    I have to say I had high cholesterol for years, had 2 strokes recovered well, the doctor had me on Lipitor the vascular surgeons had me on blood thinners, Clobidogerol, I had a massive change of diet cut out sugar and bad fats, gave up red meat to allow the liver to cleanse, last blood tests were excellent liver function great cholesterol perfect, I now only take a blood pressure pill and alternative meds, the main one that I swear by is The Miracle Enzyme – Serrapeptase, look it up, it’s much safer than lipitor etc

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    I also have high cholesterol levels, for years I took a statin and this kept my cholesterol in check, but over the years I got to the stage where I could only walk short distances with out pain, the drug was destroying my muscles, I never carried a lot of weight, was always active, and ate properly, in fact I have very good diet, and only eat small amounts of white meat, eat fish, rarely any eggs, mainly vegetarian dishes. I hardly use any fats or sugars, after lots of tests a specialist said to me “It is not your diet , it is just genetic and your liver is very good at making cholesterol” I have seen a naturapath with the co operation of my Doctor, after having a knee replacement , I have Osteo arthritis and was in a lot of pain, I was put onto high doses of krill oil and Coenzyme Q 10 and some natural pain killers,ect, after about 3 months I felt better than I had in years, and able to walk pretty good again, my cholesterol is still high, about 6.7, but I am at an age now when I feel maybe some of us will always have this problem, I have tried every thing that they have bought in over the years, Crestor, I got muscle cramps again after one dose, I stick to my diet, and and thank heavens the pain is managable now,.
    My mother lived until she was 99 and never had a cholesterol test! she didn’t even know what it was! I guess we are all different and need to find what suits us. If there was a magic cure I would love to try it, I agree with Vickster
    I prefer to take alternative medicine if possible.

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      well said Sylvia, good diet, exercise and alternative therapies and meds are the way to go in my book

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      Thanks vickster for that, I’ll talk with my Dr about Clobidogerol . I was prescribed Lipitor about 8 years ago and ended up on morphine for pain very soon after. I now take Ezetrol (approval from Canberra)10mg (child dose)and only have a couple of side effects now. The pain comes and goes and then I have to take morphine for a while. I am vegetarian now and swim 1k/day and walk every day if the pain allows. My mother’s bad cholesterol was 12!! when she died (NO… not from a heart attack) and I have been told mine is inherited , not from diet. I honestly think somethings are better off not being told.

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    As one who has taken Lipitor in the past the side effect that I experienced after 18 months on LIpitor was numbness of my feet. That was 2009 and I am now on Ezetrol without any side effects from that medication but the balls of my feet and toes are still numb 4 years later.
    After Lipitor I was placed on Lipidil and that caused skin eruptions and rashes at the back of my knees. As a result of that I have been on Ezetrol without any problems. However the downside is it only reduces cholesterol levels to 4.7 compared to less than 4.0 on the statins. But better that than coping with the side effects of the statins.

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      I would have thought 4.7 is good. Normal is/was 5.0.
      I have had aches& pains plus stomach upsets from every one that I have tried.. Stomach problems with only “baby” dose.

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    Have you googled Lipitor and Crestor? Interesting.

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    I’m 66 and was put on statins about 5 yrs ago, after a while the pain in my shoulders, elbows and neck became unbearable, I mentioned this to my dr at the time and he changed me from Lipitor to Crestor to some other statins over about a year with the pain getting much worse, I saw a different dr who put me on ezetrol , the difference was amazing for about 2 yrs however I now find that the old pain is returning, will have to visit the dr again

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      Like you Tricky, I seem to be unable to take statins. I am off to my Dr today to tell him about the side effects of Ezetrol. Yep the pain is back plus a few other things (high b/p one) I am sure the medications are more dangerous than high cholesterol.

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      as a side note to the effects of statins, my b/p had returned to normal (128/80) from 155/95 + when on statins.

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