Atorvastatin Side Effects–Add a New One to the List

$20+ billion in sales for a measly 1% drop in heart attack risk would be great if money didn’t matter and the list of atorvastatin side effects wasn’t expanding.

Regular readers of the Rantings know that I see very little reason for the statin class of drugs to exist and remain stumped that atorvastatin was one of the first drugs to reach $10 billion in annual sales.

The concern with statins to lower cholesterol is that they really suck at protecting the heart and brain from heart attacks and strokes (about a 1% lower risk).  And I guess, if this didn’t cost tens of billions of dollars per year, it would be ok to use them if there was no downside.  Unfortunately, the list of problems associated with statins just continues to grow.  I have covered the very small benefit of using statins to lower cholesterol and the increasing list of side effects in previous blog articles that can be read by clicking here and clicking here.

If I were to speak candidly (and I usually do…) I believe that the reason that this class of drugs is so popular is that most physicians just don’t know any better.  They don’t understand the medical literature and they don’t know how to recommend the right lifestyle changes to patients to lower cholesterol naturally.

I’ve mentioned before how an unsuspecting physician can get duped by a drug representative into thinking that atorvastatin or any other statin is a good thing for his or her patient.  This can be done by playing with absolute risk and relative risk when the doctor does not relate to statistics.

The other way medical literature gets misunderstood is by the physician who basically “title read” the studies on just how effective the statins are or studies mentioning the side effects of atorvastatin.

This particular study is a perfect example.  Basically, mainstream medicine would like to consider statins as the wonderdrug of the 21st century.  They have been put on a pedestal.  So, if they can doctors can be tricked into thinking they are good for the heart, what about other conditions?

Think how much more money atorvastatin could make if it could protect against arthritis?  It would renew the patent and make literally tens upon tens of billions of dollars for Pfizer.  So they run medical studies to see what sticks.

Could statins help to lower the risk of knee osteoarthritis symptoms?  Turns out that the answer is no.  The conclusion to this study reads, “Statin use was not associated with improvements in knee pain, function or structural progression over the 4-year study period.”

So, the title reading physician skims over the conclusion and moves on.  What they may miss in the results section of the study is this little tidbit:

  • The only significant finding indicated that increased duration of statin use was associated with worsening in pain and function scores (as measured by the WOMAC questionnaire) over the study period (Tweet this).


The knee arthritis pain got worse?  In a study designed to see if statins would help?  And this little finding was glazed over and not included in the conclusion??

You would think that, if the results of a study found out the complete opposite of what you were hoping to find, this would be THE most important factor in the conclusion.  But alas, the game played with your health and your insurance dollar goes on.

Although this is a single study, do you think that this information on atorvastatin side effects should be shared with you if your doctor were to write you a prescription?

James Bogash

For more than a decade, Dr. Bogash has stayed current with the medical literature as it relates to physiology, disease prevention and disease management. He uses his knowledge to educate patients, the community and cyberspace on the best way to avoid and / or manage chronic diseases using lifestyle and targeted supplementation.