On Statins and Greed

Like millions of Americans whose doctors have prescribed statins to lower cholesterol, consider that many, many of us had great success with them for decades–until they turn on you. About five years ago, my steady decline in health and fitness went unnoticed and was attributed to my advancing age–the age one sees on a lot of tombstones. I had more and more trouble standing up, and standing, and sitting, and then the cognitive impairments came. I had aphasia, trouble finding words when speaking. My writing was going well, but I was forgetting things like if I had brushed my teeth 30-seconds before. When I found myself checking the toothbrush to see if it was wet, I knew there was a problem. A long battery of tests confirmed “MCD” (Mild Cognitive Impairment) and dramatic loss of muscle strength in my back and legs. We started looking for something that had brought about this change (the denial phase) other than ordinary aging. We stopped a variety of drugs, but not my cholesterol drugs–the statins I had been prescribed by all of my doctors since they were first introduced many decades ago. Wanting to eliminate one of my suspect heart medications, I went to my cardiologist and detailed my symptoms.
“It’s the statin. We need to get you off it–at least for six weeks,” he said.
“What about my cholesterol?” I asked.
“Let’s just try this first. We’ll worry about the HDL/LDL numbers later.”

So I did, and a month later, many of my symptoms abated and I began to feel stronger. I was talking better, back in the gym, and making progress. I went back to the doctor and he said my cholesterol was too high so we would have to try another statin. I did, and within ten days, my stammering was back, and I was back on a cane. We stopped the statin immediately but we had to repeat this regimen for three more statins–the results were the same each time. It was only then that the doctor was permitted by Medicare rules to approve the alternative–a PSK9 inhibitor.

To make a long story short (okay, it’s too long already), after several months of wrangling with the VA (who pays for all of my drugs due to being 90% disabled), and Congressional intervention, I got the new injectable drug approved. So far (after having taken four doses over two months), I feel much better and my cholesterol numbers are back in the “acceptable” range so it’s working without noticeable side-effects.

So, if you have someone with similar symptoms, it’s worth the trouble to get their doctor to consider an alternative to statins. No, don’t take medical advice from people on the Internet, but there is plenty of reputable evidence that statins are not all that they promised to be–not for everyone. They weren’t for me and I’m glad I’m off of them.

Since I published this as a meme on Facebook, a dozen or more friends have told me similar horror stories and others who have similar otherwise unexplained symptoms are checking with their doctors for other solutions to their high cholesterol.

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