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Statin Use and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis—ALS

 

ALS ranks up there as one of the worst illnesses.  Also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, ALS is a rapidly progressing neurological disease where nerve cells in the muscles are attacked.  This leads to progressive weakness and disability.  Eventually, a patient with ALS will be unable to move his/her arms and legs and, in later stages, the breathing muscles are affected.   Death usually occurs from two to five years after the diagnosis.

As a physician, I hate seeing an ALS patient.  Seeing a patient with ALS makes me angry and upset.    There are no known effective treatments for this condition.  Over the last few decades, ALS is occurring more frequently and in younger patients.

A Canadian article about ALS states, “{Physicians are} uncovering surprising links between ALS and other diseases, like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and frontotemporal dementia, which were once thought to be completely unrelated… (1)

What could be the link between the increasingly common diagnoses of ALS, Parkinson’s and Dementia?

Statin drugs.

As I wrote in my book,  The Statin Disaster, statin use has been shown to be associated with an increased risk of being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and dementia. I also wrote about the increased risk in ALS with statin use.

A new 2018 article in Drug Safety (2) looked at the diagnosis of ALS for each statin drug being used.  The authors relied on the FDA Adverse Event Reporting System (FAERS) data to compare the relationship between statins and ALS.  The scientists found statin drugs were associated with a 9-107-fold increase in ALS diagnosis, depending on the type of statin drug.  For example, Crestor had a 9-fold increase, Lipitor a 17-fold increase, Zocor a 23-fold increase, and Mevacor a 107-fold increase.

The authors concluded, “These findings extend previous evidence showing that significantly elevated ALS reporting extends to individual statin agents and add to concerns about potential elevated occurrence of ALS-like conditions in associated with statin usage.” (2)

Folks, I am rarely stunned by a research article, but this one shook me.  Although an association does not equal causation, the association of statins with ALS as shown above is greater than the association that cigarettes increase the  risk of lung cancer.  Remember, there has never been a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study showing cigarettes cause lung cancer.  However, we know it to be true because the association is so strong.

I think this bears repeating:  The association between statins and ALS is stronger than the association of cigarette smoking and lung cancer.

Statins, in the best of the studies, lower your risk for a non-fatal heart attack by around 1%.  And, you don’t live longer for taking them for many years–unless you consider four more days of life a success!

That means statins fail nearly 99% who take them.  Now, throw in all the horrendous side effects including ALS, and I am still wondering why the FDA doesn’t pull them from the market.

The title of my book, The Statin Disaster, says it all.  It is truly a medical disaster that statins are taken by so many for such little gain.  A diagnosis of ALS increases with statin use?  Not only is it increased, it is tremendously increased.

Statins should be pulled from the marketplace.  Their meager benefits are far outweighed by their risks.

More information about statins and why you should avoid them can be found in my book.

 

 

(1)    http://www.macleans.ca/society/health/understanding-als/

(2)    https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40264-017-0620-4

Author Info

David Brownstein, M.D.

Comments ( 13 )

  • Donna

    I ha d a friend/co_worker die from ALS thi s past year. To see the the horrible condition she was in was disheartening. Dying a horrible death. Not sure if she was taking any statins but makes me wonder when years ago I had to clear out a section of the supply closet do to mold. Of couse the building mintenance manager did not think it was that but painted over the affected wall with a special paInt. All the boxed up supplies were sitting in her office section for about a month. Also interesting was anohter woman in the same room also died just in the past year or two. Oh and another woman down the hallway died from lung cancer but never smoked and her office smelled musty. Could there be link?

  • Jeanette McKee

    While I agree that Statins are ridiculous, I feel the original reason why the Statins were prescribed in the first place is most likely the major contributing factor to why we see these conditions down the road. One of the biggest reasons Cholesterol rises is due to Poor Thyroid function. Recently I saw where Alzheimer’s Disease was linked to patients who used sleeping pills. Again why weren’t they sleeping well to begin with? Most likely poor Thyroid function. I could go on and on all night.

  • Sandi

    Do these findings apply to all cholesterol-lowering drugs – I’m on Zetia.

    • Sandi,
      No, they do not. However, Zetia is a discredited drug that has less efficacy than statins. That drug should have been pulled from the marketplace years ago.
      DrB

    • Arvilla's Daughter

      Hi Sandi, As the good doctor cautions, even this ‘combo’ (made up of two statins) “Zetia” should be taken off the market.

      In thinking a real life story will illuminate, it was in early 2008 that my dad’s 91 y/o wife was put on this statin and steadily over the next year, so did her insomnia worsen, daily fatigue increase and overall demeanor sour…and this was while she was using the CoQ10 I had recommended…to make sure there was this protection for her heart. Unfortunately, the statin drug class depletes both the life enhancing cholesterol and CoQ10 since they are produced in same biochemical pathway, but most MD’s don’t know or bother to tell their patients to use (at least) 200 mg of CoQ10 at same time as on a statin. Plus, putting someone of this advanced age on a statin is outrageous if one knows “the older we are, the more cholesterol we need” to maintain more optimum quality of life (few to no falls, maintain social engagement, retention of short term memory) as a 2007 study in France confirmed with women over age 70 and as was compared to those on a statin and those who weren’t. Statistically, all who suffer a heart attack are found at more than 50% as those with normal to lower stores of cholesterol. In other words, rarely do they have “high” stores of cholesterol…again, because this is what the aging body needs to AVOID a heart attack.

      Thus, by end of 2008, so did my loved one go down after getting a bit too anxious-excited at the bowling alley with what was initially thought to be about a typical heart attack (involves plaque) and was later ‘accurately’ diagnosed as a Heart Stunning (aka TakoTsubo, Broken Heart Syndrome) or Stress-induced Cardiomyopathy….which is about primary stress hormones (Adrenaline, Cortisol, Cathecholamines) spiking to assault (“stun”) the heart into a metabolic compromise. She was resuscitated twice…once at the alley and once in ambulance and after a five day hospitalization, so was I her live-in caretaker (also for my dad) for the next three (3) weeks which was all the recovery time it took to restore her heart to normal function.

      BUT what was so tell tale revealing was that when I spoke with her Cardiologist, he told me that when he tried to monitor her Cholesterol stores, there was NONE to be found which prompted him to do a second test…only to glean same result….and it was by this process of elimination that he knew her situation was akin to Stress-induced Cardiomyopathy diagnosis. As my later research confirmed, this more rare heart challenge is typically seen in post menopausal women who have lower stores of heart-protective Estrogen and as a third contributing factor related to overall metabolic imbalances caused by the Zetia statin, so was her blood sugar (glucose) sitting at only 54 just two (2) weeks before she collapsed….which, in turn, was part of inciting cause (besides deficiency of cholesterol in brain) of the short term memory loss she suffered from for rest of her life.

      As a family advocate for several well into their 90’s, I could go on with the horrors, but will close here by saying “Thank you so much Dr. B” for being such a beacon of integrity as you continually persist in shining “honest” light on how dangerous, life altering and life threatening all statins are.

  • Elisa

    Thanks Dr. B, great explanation of association and causation! I’ve been trying to figure out the difference, and this really helps.
    It makes sense that these diseases are related because they all seem to involve degradation of the myelin sheath. Since statins block production of cholesterol, someone taking them can’t repair their myelin sheath since its mostly made of cholesterol like the rest of the brain. (I think)

  • Holly

    My mom, a then very healthy and vibrant woman in her 70’s, was prescribed a statin. Several weeks later, she began to lose muscle strength – she couldn’t even lift a plate out of her cupboard. She kept saying “that darn statin” as her symptoms got worse and worse. In short order she was diagnosed with ALS and told she should take steps to conserve her energy. She took to her bed to conserve her energy where she lived a very frightening and horrific existence and then eventually died. That’s the bad news. The good news: her cholesterol number was probably very good.

    • Holly,
      I am sorry about what happened to your mother. I have seen the same story play out in my practice.
      DrB

  • Donna

    My mother also died from ALS, in 1982, aged 52. Around that time, I read a magazine article that spoke of 4 (four!) members of a football team (at a school) coming down with ALS after their practice field was sprayed with some type of chemical (to kill bugs?). I have forever regretted not saving that magazine page. So……it seems like there can be a chemical “trigger” to the disease. Perhaps those with a strong liver will not be affected.

  • Marg

    My mother died from als in the sixties, aged 46. At the time the drs knew of eleven cases ever diagnosed in Australia. Now I am hearing of cases quite frequently. She was not on statins but had had mushroom poisoning about a year before symptoms developed. On the island of Guam, there are many cases due to their liking for eating flour made from cycads. They know the cycad fruit is poisonous but soak it in a running stream for a week to leach out the poisons. I wonder if the chemicals used to make statins are derived from a similar source?

    I agree with you on the severity of als. If I was diagnosed with it, I would get my affairs in order and suicide. It is worse than death to have your body slowly die over a period of years. Horrendous.

  • David, this is a good time to remind you that I think you’re brilliant! Well done and bravo 🙂

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