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Why are we still in the middle of a ‘statins war’? | Heart | UT Southwestern Medical Center

She searched the house from top to bottom and was about to call the police when she noted that the tracks in the new snow outside her porch near the woodpile were hers. She was the unknown intruder. This unnerved her, but after she discontinued her statin drug, she reverted to her usual alert, independent self. Air Force loadmaster wanted to know how long his Lipitor associated memory lapses might last. He stopped the drug on his own but knew his job was in jeopardy if he reported this event to his flight surgeon.

A businessman awoke in his car miles away from anything familiar to him, and a passing highway patrol officer was convinced that his disorientation must be due to drinking or drugs. In a manner of speaking he may have been right, for this man was on Lipitor and since that episode has become an anti-statin activist. A CEO of a large company remains unable to formulate new memory and is no longer employable, an apparent victim of permanent memory impairment following amnesia episodes associated with Lipitor. The list goes on and on.

Cohen: You yourself developed amnesia after taking Lipitor. What happened? Graveline: The first episode happened after I had been prescribed Lipitor for my modestly elevated cholesterol. I had returned from my usual morning walk in the woods when my wife noticed me walking aimlessly in our driveway as if I were lost. I did not recognize her and refused to enter our home. I reluctantly accepted cookies and milk and somehow she got me into the car to see my family doctor and neurologist.

One year later, I was urged to resume taking Lipitor by my doctor, who refused to believe that a statin had caused the first amnesia episode. This time, during the 12 hour episode, I regressed all the way back to my teen years with precise recall for all my high school friends and events. Gone were all memories of my college years, medical school, my marriage and four children. And my exciting 10 years in the USAF as flight surgeon and research scientist.

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I had no recall of being a family doctor for 23 years, a NASA astronaut, or the author of nine books. All of these memories were completely lost from my mind, just as if they never happened. Cohen: The image we see of amnesia in the movies is humorous, not serious or dangerous. What is the reality? Graveline: Experiencing total global amnesia is nothing like you see it presented in the movies.

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Imagine yourself with an abrupt and complete loss of ability to formulate new memory — a conversation with a loved one, a beautiful scene, a major event in your life, all gone like a whisp of smoke. And in the retrograde form, add the loss of major memories of the life lived — marriages, deaths, children, careers. Cohen: You practiced medicine, right? Graveline: I practiced medicine as a solo family doctor for 23 years until Since I am board certified in preventive medicine as well as family practice, I applied preventive medicine concepts liberally in my practice and, yes, these concepts included cholesterol control through the use of medicines.

I used these earlier drugs liberally and encountered no major problems. Graveline: Initially, when I seemed to be the only case, my evidence was purely intuitive. Lipitor was the only medication I was taking when, six weeks later, I had my first attack of amnesia. A year later, at the time of my next astronaut physical, I was rechallenged with Lipitor and after six weeks an even worse bout involving both anterograde and retrograde amnesia occurred.

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Even though I was now convinced that both of my experiences stemmed from the Lipitor, no one else was. Only when I discovered the statin study at the University of California, San Diego, did the truth finally begin to emerge.

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I learned that there were several other cases just like mine. We now have thousands of case reports including many who are rechallenge cases like mine. And just recently, the journal Pharmacotherapy published a review article of 60 patients having statin-associated memory problems Wagstaff, LR, et al.

In my judgment, the evidence for statins causal role is overwhelming.

Graveline: Yes. Generally speaking I have not been excessively critical of statins, and I repeatedly cite their value for high-risk patients for our options are few at this time. My only concern is with the lack of awareness of both patient and prescribing doctor of the potential of the statin class of drugs to seriously interfere with the memory process. Condition: New.

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