Hey Doc…

Ever since I started taking Lipitor for my cholesterol, I am waking up with aches and pains.  Could there be a connection?

-R.V. in Cathedral City-

Dear R.V.,

There is no question that statin drugs, such as Lipitor, Zocor (simvastin), Crestor, Vytorin, et al, are effective at lowering cholesterol.  However, anytime you use a drug that can powerfully effect how the body operates, you have to weigh the benefits with the downside.

Here are some factors to consider.  Nature is a lot smarter than we are.  Its primary concern is survival, to keep you alive.  It is unlikely that the body will manufacture something that is harmful to it.  When statin drugs first came on the market, a normal total cholesterol went up to 300.  By periodically lowering the “normal” limits they have been very successful at increasing sales.  The upper limit is now 180 and they are the largest selling drugs in the world.  All of this without demonstrating any significant decreases in heart attacks or strokes.  The “normal” level is about to be reduced to 160 because the drug companies, with the blessing of the American Pediatric Association, want to market their drugs to children.

The answer (finally) to your question is “yes”, there is a connection.  Statin drugs significantly lower your levels of coenzyme Q 10, a substance imperative for muscle function – including the heart muscle.  Side effects include heart damage and sudden death.  They also cause brain damage and memory loss, permanent nerve damage, and irreversible kidney failure.

Interfering with how the body functions can have deleterious consequences.  Cholesterol is an intrinsic component to the immune system helping the body to fight cancer.  One study showed a 1500% increase in breast cancer in women on Lipitor.  The body uses cholesterol to repair the cell walls of arteries.  A significant drop in levels forces the body to increase plaque in arteries as a survival mechanism.  An increase in hemorrhagic strokes or rupture of plaques also occurs with a lowering of levels.

The bottom line is that I feel there are safer ways of approaching elevated levels of cholesterol.  The first approach is to balance hormones – the thyroid controls cholesterol metabolism.  They used to call cholesterol the poor man’s thyroid test.  Many people have too much insulin which not only causes fat and diabetes but also causes cholesterol levels to increase.  There are natural hormones and supplements that lower insulin.  Niacin is considered by many to be the drug of choice to lower cholesterol – it is a natural B vitamin, and the body recognizes it.

“Hey Doc” is a weekly series of questions & answers pertaining to common medical issues. It was published in the Palm Springs area, as well as the Beverly Hills Courier, not too long ago. The answers are strictly my beliefs and are intended to inform the reader of possible alternative approaches. All questions regarding your health should be discussed with your own physician. ~Michael E. Platt M.D.