Don’t Let Your Doctor Dismiss Your Muscle Pain and Fatigue

| April 18, 2011

The most commonly-prescribed drugs for ‘raised’ cholesterol are statins, including simvastatin, atorvastatin, lovastatin and rosuvastatin. Like all drugs, they have the potential to cause side-effects. Common adverse effects include fatigue, muscle weakness and muscle pain. Perhaps partly because of the internet and educational blogs like this one, there has been growing recognition that statins can have devastating effects on wellbeing.

However, I frequently find that when individuals take their concerns about statin side-effects to their doctor, they are all-too-readily fobbed off.

I was thinking about this recently after being consulted by a gentleman who had experienced what appeared to me to be quite-obvious problems associated with his statin treatment. These problems meant he’d had to change his medication on more than one occasion. And yet it seemed his doctor was still somewhat reluctant to ascribe his symptoms (which included fatigue, mood and ‘cognitive function’ issues) to the statins he’d prescribed.

When he saw me, he had taken matters into his own hands. He had stopped taking the statins and started supplementing with coenzyme Q10 (statins deplete the body of this vital nutrient). He was feeling much better. Now, his improvement may have had nothing at all to do with his decision to stop taking the statins and to opt for coenzyme Q10instead (but I suspect it did).

This experience reminded me of a piece of research in which 650 adults were surveyed with regard to possible side effects from taking statin drugs, including muscle pain and cognitive impairment [1]. Of this sample, 87 per cent of individuals had a discussion with their physician about the possible connection between statin use and their symptoms.

In the vast majority of cases, this discussion was initiated by the patient, not their doctor. The study found that doctors were reportedly more likely to deny than affirm the possibility of a connection. Rejection of a connection was even found to occur when there was good evidence in the scientific literature to support such a link.

Why is it that some doctors are reluctant to listen to their patients in this regard, even if there are logical and scientific reasons to take these concerns seriously? The reasons for this are multifaceted, but here are some possible explanations:

1. Time – it’s quicker to dismiss patient concerns than delve into them and prescribe a new drug

2. Money – here in the UK, for instance, doctors are financially incentivised to get their patients’ cholesterol levels down below a predetermined value

3. Ego – we doctors sometimes think we’re supposed to have the intellectual upper hand, and can therefore be dismissive of suggestions that come from our patients (rather than our own minds)

4. Ignorance – the side effects of statins may be generally well known, but that does not mean your doctor is especially aware of them

5. Research bias – industry funded studies generally downplay side-effects (some studies don’t even report adverse effects)

6. Timing – the side effects of statins can come on weeks, months or even years after the therapy has commenced, which can create a ‘disconnect’ in your doctor’s mind

Of course, knowing all this may be of limited value if you find yourself in a situation whereby you’re suffering statin-related side effects but your doctor continues to be dismissive.

If you are experiencing any ill-effects you suspect may be linked to the statins you’ve been prescribed, then I strongly encourage you to consult your doctor.

However, medical treatment is a matter of personal choice too. I don’t encourage anyone to automatically reject their doctor’s advice out-of-hand, but there is room for some healthy scepticism and self-advocacy in the doctor-patient relationship too. Sometimes, individuals end up feeling forced into taking matters into their own hands. And the reality is they may be better off for it.

Here’s to a healthy heart

Dr John Briffa
Editor
for The Cholesterol Truth

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References:

1. Golomb BA, et al. Physician Response to Patient Reports of Adverse Drug Effects: Implications For Patient-Targeted Adverse Effect Surveillance. Drug Safety. 2007;30(8):669-675.

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Category: Statin Drugs Side Effects

Comments (13)

Testimonials are based on the personal experience of individuals. Results are not typical and the potential benefits of taking any drug or supplement may vary depending on your individual needs and health requirements. Please consult your GP before making any changes to your medical regimen.

  1. May says:

    These drug destroyed my health. Took them for just a week and the pain in my legs were unbelievable. I can’t believe they prescribe this stuff to millions of people!

  2. maud says:

    been on pravastatin since 2002,changed from sinvastatin sorry cant remember why? memory loss joint pain cog b muscle pain back pain had to take very strong pain relief ,so a a article about this person on statins exact problems as I rang doctor she said “those sort of articles make her life difficult” I said i wasnt taking any more she said “Keep me posted” Ipray i will return to NORMALITY muscle pain GONE shooting pains GONE waiting for the head& soh etc i just hope !

  3. neil says:

    I was prescribed Simavastin about 18 months ago. I developed itchy skin, particularly on my back, burning feelings in my forearms, a facial rash in the central flushing area and enduring pain in my hips, as of the last three months. I was fit, healthy and very active previously and now I can`t walk more than 200 yards without pain. Do I blame Statins.?..yes – absolutely. I binned them.

  4. Sunny James says:

    a friend of mines father has not been feeling well over the past 2 years since he had 2 stents put in. After that he started to complain about fatigue all the time. My friend questioned the doctor about this asking if this could be caused by any of the medication he was on & the doctor said no. Well one of his medications was a statin some of the listed side effect of this medicaion is fatigue & weakness in the muscles. it turns out that he started havng problems with his hand & was diagnosed with carpel tunnel then had surgery about 2 months ago the physical therapist notice there was something wrong and became concerned with his lack of muscle strength. Last month he started falling down, the family made an appointment to see a neurolagist the soonest apt. was about a month wait. On new years eve my friend called to say she was on her way to take her father to the hospital because he had fallen at home & could not get up on his own. He was so weak he couldn’t even pull up his pants. He couldn’t walk. Now he has spent 3 days in the hospital had mri, cat scan, blood work & no answers for his condition. They know he is using statin & would have to know about these very symptoms being a side effect of using them. What the hell is wrong with these doctors. They are putting peoples lives in jeperady by not listening to their patients when they have valid complaints & those very complaints are a common side effect of that drug.

  5. barbara says:

    Sivastatin as afected both legs muscle cramps paine. Dr willing to do a cryosine blood test but wants me to try Quinine tabs for a month am not blind to these tactics she just wants to linger the matter on she knows i am in agony and also suffer with fybromalygia and other medical problems. I have a funny feeling she will be in deniel from what have read about Dr attitudes to stastins damage is not good If nothing don imay be in a wheelchair by 2011

  6. Charlotte says:

    My husband has been taking 40 mg of Simvastatin daily for a few years now. Recently, he has been having some severe mood swings. He becomes aggressive and snaps over meaningless things. He also forgot an entire incident, and he still can’t remember it happening. We have been married since 1998, but he has never acted this way. It is not like him at all. Hopefully, he will talk to his doctor about it now.

  7. DAUGHTER says:

    My father is currently in the hospital due to zedia a statin. His diabetic doctor put him on statins and even thou he had muscle pain, weakness and dizzy spells she kept him on them. I protested and she took him off of them until the next time he went to her without me. About six months ago he started to have trouble walking and had pain in his back, legs and hips. I did not know he was taking the statins again. He complained during this time to his doctor and she ignored his complaints. When I found out he was on the statins I was very upset and demanded she take him off of them. She wrote in the file that HIS DAUGHTER REFUSES THE STATIN. Even thou he is now off the statins he is now hospitalized and unable to walk, or even sit up on his own. Because his body has been ravaged by statins that he did not need. His cholesterol was only195!! He is suffering from a condition where his amune system is attacking him caused by the statin drug Zedia. STAY OFF THESE DRUGS NO MATTER WHAT YOUR DOCTOR SAYS. My father was a very healthy man before the doctor destroyed his health!!!!!

  8. Cholesterol Truth says:

    I am currently out of the office until 26 April 2011. For any urgent queries please contact Andrew Miller or Rachael Jeffery. Thank you. Francois Lubbe ________________________________________________________________________ This e-mail has been scanned for all viruses by Star. The service is powered by MessageLabs. For more information on a proactive anti-virus service working around the clock, around the globe, visit: http://www.star.net.uk ________________________________________________________________________

  9. Nicos says:

    subscribing something that is no good, for your patient in order to get a benefit like cash,a car, a trip for the whole family in an exotic place etc is unethical and inexcusable for someone who took the Hippocratic oath BUT prescribing something which you know it will harm the patient or it will cause him further suffering, besides all the above it is also criminal! !!. What I have no words for is for a terminal cancer patient who is prescribed one of the very expensive chemo drugs just a few weeks before dying, especially if the drug is NOT suitable for the type of cancer the patient has!!! This is Hitleric !!!

  10. mile says:

    got the rhabdomyolysis and neuropathy in the form of shrunken kidney and aneurysm and think it was the statins and ace inhibitors which were quickly cancelled on referal to other doctors after ct of the problems set to financially bleed me into poverty , make millions for doctors and hospitals and drug companys……funny, did not trust a one of them going into the whole thing as of the people they did in before me……each getting referal fees, and kickbacks and paydasys from the others, where does trust of this system of medicine as it exists come from??

  11. Viv says:

    Our doctor realised the side effects of statins when he started to take them and started to have mood swings and even began to feel aggressive!As for the diabetes – was given statins and blood pressure drugs a my first hospital appointment, BP drugs made me cough, changed them no better and my doc bless him said well they are a precautionary measure we could see how you go on without them. The statins I stopped without telling them – I had changed my diet and eat plenty of healthy oil and unpaasteurised butter and cheese and some milk. There was no marked change – no-one noticed. But what really annoys me is they are quite happy to let you take lots of insulin as long as your blood sugar is ok – but they don’t warn you of the consequences. The best article I have evr read about diabetes is Jon Barron’d echo effect. So thanks to HSI for all the valuable info.

  12. Joseph Magaro says:

    MY CHOLESTEROL FOR THE PAST 2 YEARS HAS BEEN GOING UP EVERY THREE MONTHS IT WAS CHECKED. By taking Niacin I have brought my total cholesterol numbers down this past quarter to 179; however the balance is not there as I understand it the HDL being high is a good thing (Non HDL Chol 138H) and the (VLDL 43H) is only a little high. What concerns me are the Trig 214H, however that is down from three months ago at 414H. My GP has been trying to get me to take a statin, because he says I am in a high risk category of being a type 2 diabetic. Both my doctors acknowledges the side effects of statins and don’t disagree about free radicals and oxidation of cholesterol being key factors. They feel that mine is a genetic issue and statins are the answer and my Endo feels I need to take Welchol to fool my liver into producing bile instead of cholesterol. To date I have rejected both and yes I have tried red yeast rice with COQ10, but still not sure what to do. Two weeks ago I started taking Glucosamine Sulfate and Chondroitin to try and reduce inflammation in my joints, which seems to be working, but not sure if that type of inflammation will raise cholesterol especially triglycerides.

  13. James Holt says:

    I have no trust in my doctors, especially when it comes to statins. During my last diabetic check up with my nurse she mentioned the target for cholesterol levels impacted on their funding! Mine was too high!A week later I was summoned to see a doctor (locum being the norm).She was downright hostile insisting as a diabetic I HAD to have a total cholesterol level of 4.0 or lower(Mine was 5.8) and MUST take statins. She wasn’t interested in my comments about side effects and was downright nasty when I refused to take them. I’ve had this conversation with many doctors and its like they have a script they work from.Always the same speech, parrot fashion and only 10 minutes or less!

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