Statins - Side effects 

  • Overview

Side effects of statins 

Like all medications, statins can cause side effects. However, most people tolerate them well and don't experience any problems.

You should discuss the benefits and risks of taking statins with your doctor before you start taking the medication.

If you find certain side effects particularly troublesome, you should talk to the doctor in charge of your care. Your dose may need to be adjusted or you may need a different type of statin.

Some of the main side effects of statins are described below; however, this is not an exhaustive list and some of these will not necessarily apply to the specific statin you are taking. For information on the side effects of a particular statin, check the information leaflet that comes with your medication or search for your medication in our medicines A-Z

Common side effects

Although side effects can vary between different statins, common side effects (which affect up to 1 in 10 people) include:

However, it's not clear whether most of the common problems people experience when taking statins are actually caused by the medication itself. A study has suggested that many side effects are similar, no matter if a statin or placebo (dummy medication) is taken. For more information, see the article "Statins side effects are minimal, study argues".

Uncommon side effects

Uncommon side effects of statins (which may affect up to 1 in 100 people) include:

  • being sick
  • loss of appetite or weight gain
  • difficulty sleeping (insomnia) or having nightmares
  • dizziness – if you experience this, do not drive or use tools and machinery
  • loss of sensation or tingling in the nerve endings of the hands and feet (peripheral neuropathy)
  • memory problems
  • blurred vision – if you experience this, do not drive or use tools and machinery
  • ringing in the ears
  • inflammation of the liver (hepatitis), which can cause flu-like symptoms
  • inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis), which can cause stomach pain
  • skin problems, such as acne or an itchy red rash
  • feeling unusually tired or physically weak

Rare side effects

Rare side effects of statins (which may affect up to 1 in 1,000 people) include:

  • visual disturbances
  • bleeding or bruising easily
  • yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)

Muscle effects

Statins can occasionally cause muscle inflammation (swelling) and damage. Speak to your doctor if you experience muscle pain, tenderness or weakness that cannot be explained (for example, pain that is not due to physical work).

Your doctor will carry out a blood test to measure a substance in your blood called creatine kinase (CK), which is released into the blood when your muscles are inflamed or damaged.

If the level of CK in your blood is more than five times the normal level, your doctor may advise you to stop taking the statin. Regular exercise can sometimes lead to a rise in CK, so tell your doctor if you have been exercising a lot.

Once your CK level has returned to normal, your doctor may suggest you start taking the statin again, but at a lower dose.

Page last reviewed: 25/03/2014

Next review due: 25/03/2016

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Comments

The 28 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

SamC5 said on 04 November 2014

I am 59 reasonably fit and healthy. I am a non smoker with normal blood pressure. I have mild asthma. I go to gym weekly. At my annual asthma checkup it was suggested that I start statins. My cholesterol was high at 6.7 and there was family history that suggested my risk of stroke etc was increased. I have a sibling that had a heart attack at 59. I was reluctant but it was suggested that it would be beneficial. I have been suffering horrendous headaches, disturbed sleep, total lethargy, which is a nightmare when driving and strangely developed tennis elbow which is vey painful. Some days I feel as if I am in a haze. I checked the internet a couple of days ago and was astounded to see that most of my symptoms could be side effects to statins. I went to my doctor and it was suggested that my high cholesterol is hereditary and I should stop taking the Atorvastatin to see if the symptoms stop. He may suggest an alternative. My father is still going strong at nearly 90. If I inherit that gene I will be pleased! Why do I need to take these drugs that are making me feel so bad! I stopped taking them on Sunday and will check my progress. After reading all the messages I do not want to take them but feel pressured by my medical practice.

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mollymac276 said on 01 September 2014

I have been taking Lipitor for 10 weeks now and am feeling terrible. I'm permanently tired and feel sick most of the time. When I go to sleep I wake up about 20 mins later feeling like I have a rampaging turkey fluttering its wings in my chest. I am overweight and had taken up hill walking but to be honest I don't feel well enough to do much of anything since I started these pills. How on earth can something that makes me feel so bad be good for me??? I am going to stop taking them as of today and hope the damage they have done repairs itself.

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LJB Durham said on 26 August 2014

I was told I have high cholesterol about a year ago, a routine check identified this to be 9. I am not overweight, don't smoke or drink and I exercise regularly. It was therefore decided this was primary not secondary hyperlipidemia.
I was put on Atorvastatin 10mgs (after refusing to start on 60mgs as I am a nurse and wanted to build up to an optimum dose as opposed to being what I considered too hefty)
Over the months my cholesterol came down to 5.8, however I started to have muscle aches,particularly in my right arm, and right leg, as well as feeling generally fatigued, and if I'm honest a bit miserable. I mentioned the muscle aches to my GP, who asked for a CK test (which identifies muscle damage) to be done at the same time as my next fasting cholesterol test.
When this was done my CK was 1366 units. (normal, I believe is 30-135 units) The hospital phoned me and I was taken off statins immediately. 2 weeks later my CK was 85 units. However my cholesterol had shot back up to 8. I am now being asked to try Ezetimibe. a cholesterol lowering drug which is not a Statin. When I have read the research on this I note the side effects are the same so I am very reluctant to go on these drugs. My dilemma is my cholesterol is very high so common the professional in me says it's a no brainer if I want to reduce the risk of stroke and not all drugs have the same side effects etc.. but my head says don't do it, as I felt dreadful on the statin and my right arm still is not right. Has anyone else gone through this? I was even considering reviewing Homeopathic remedies.. how desperate is that!!

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compastella said on 25 August 2014

My GP put me on a simvastatin dues a higher cholesterol reading that went from 5 to 6.7 or something. To be honest I took zero notice for 2 years. in May this year I took the drug till July and stopped . Why? It was the vilest thing Ive ever taken and its a LEGAL DRUG. Muscle cramps still plague me. Numb toes, dizzyness extreme weakness & fatigue HORRIBLE. I also felt very low /anxious,fretting. I go to the gym and I STILL am not up to scratch with my health. There are better things that could be prescribed but lets face it STATINS bring in the money. The research on Statins isnt positive. I was told I would have to take them for life. Really? I dont think so.

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Antid said on 18 June 2014

There is no evidence that the benefits of statins outweigh the risks. It is estimated that if a random 1,000 people took statins for five years, then it is likely that only 20 would not have a heart attack as a result and even fewer would be not have had a stroke because they took statins. Weigh this again the listed side effects, some of which are quite horrendous and you have to ask why we are spending £2 billion per year on these drugs (this figure includes the cost of the drugs and the cost of the doctors and nurses etc administering the whole thing).

We need to carry out some independent (not funded by the drugs companies) research comparing one standardised group taking statins with a similar group not taking statins and record the results over several years.

I would recommend people read the excellent book "The Great Cholesterol Con" by Dr Malcolm Kendrick. Read this book and you will never take statins again. According to Dr Kendrick, the only people who would benefit from taking statins are males who have had a heart attack or stroke.

Like many people I suffered unpleasant side effects from statins, which my doctor told me to ignore. He said that taking statins had not reduced my cholesterol so he said he was changing my dose from 2.5 to 5. I said I agreed to a dose change, but said I was going from 2.5 to zero. The doctor said that if you take statins you have to take them for life, but I think this is nonsense. There is no need for healthy people to take statins.



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sueb6454 said on 28 May 2014

after having t.i.a on the 11th april . i was put on simvastatin, i have been taking them for 6 weeks and the side effects are horrible, i.e. pains in both arms, not sleeping, fuzzy feeling in my head most days, headaches, and also a bit of depression. I have now stopped taking them,will speak to my GP in a couple of day's ( see if i feel any better) and let him know what i have done but one thing for sure will not be taking them again, i just want my life back

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Rogerrocket said on 23 May 2014

ATORVASTATIN
Update since my last comment on the 7th May.
i visited my GP and advised him of the experiment that I had done re stopping medication and taking it again on two occasions ( see my earlier report).
Repeating the experiment was the correct procedure and I have clearly shown that Atorvastatin was the cause of muscle pain in my shoulders and caused sleep disturbance.
The doctor has advised me to continue not taking Atorvastatin for a further two and a half months and then have a fasting blood test to see if I need the medication at all.
Considering the months of pain that I endured with this medication and other side effects I will probably refuse to take it anyway.
As a point of interest I mentioned earlier that I am a regular swimmer in my local pool. We'll this week I broke my personal distance record by swimming 150 lengths of a 25 metre pool and had absolutely no muscle pain or cramp.
if I should take statins in the future I now know exactly what side effects to expect. I urge anyone suffering similar side effects to do as I did and try stopping the medication to see if the side effects disappear.

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bobcam said on 22 May 2014

I am a 65 year old man and my cholesterol reading was 6.9 and had a risk factor of 21% when all my other personal history was included. My GP practice’s guideline for Statins is 20%. I reduced my figures to 6.4 and 20% in 5 weeks however I was talked into Statins at this point. Here’s how it went-Friday night first Simvastatin. Following Tuesday dull migraine like headache lasted 8 hours, arthritic like pain in one finger, left hand and sporadic shooting jaggy nerve pains in various areas. Following Friday, repeat headache, pain now in four fingers, left hand and continuing jaggy pains. Following Monday, same again but pains also starting in all fingers, right hand. Woke up Tuesday with tightness at nape of neck. Phoned Surgery and told that perhaps Statins were not suitable for me and should watch diet for 12 weeks and go from there. 3 days off pills, fingers improving, still jaggy pains and no headache so far. Hope it all clears up. If 11 days of statins did this I hate to think what long term might do? They might improve life expectancy but at what price to life quality?

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Reef said on 17 May 2014

Further to my earlier comments (same day).
Is there some kind of conspiracy to hide the truth about statin side effects?
I volunteered for this as I believed in the science, but now I'm becoming concerned.
Articles in serious journals are 'pulled', my own (I thought honest and decent), Doc. doesn't believe me (she says - is it what she's told to say?), I know many people who have used, and have reported side effects - only to be told 'you're wrong"?
My iQ is 163, I've read psychology, I understand the diff between 'real' and 'placebo' side effects - but ... I'm not believed? What's going wrong? Any real Doctor out there prepared to tell the truth?
Reef

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Elderly_Ghost said on 15 May 2014

I was prescribed a statin by the GP replacing my previous GP who retired even though the previous GP said I should not take statins as I ran the risk of it aggravating my colitis. At the new GP's insistence I took the statin and 8 hours later was in A&E. I suffered significant blood loss and spent 11 days in hospital while they sorted it out.
Following this incident my cholesterol was tested and found to 3.5 significantly lower that that required for intervention.
The new GP had insisted that I take statins as previously I had suffered a heart attack and the heart consultant was happy that my cholesterol levels were sufficiently low enough to not require statins. Preventative medicine gone crazy.

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Rogerrocket said on 07 May 2014

ATORVASTATIN
I am a 66-year-old man. 2 years ago I was prescribed Simvastatin and subsequently Atorvastatin. 18 months ago I developed severe shoulder pain in my right shoulder and to a lesser extent in the left one.
Other symptoms I have experienced are: -
Muscle cramps - legs and hands.
Sleep disturbance - vivid dreams/nightmares.
On waking my mind is racing and I feel fuzzy headed.
I am very fit - a onetime long distance runner. Over the last 15 years regularly swum up to 5 days a week. Stopped swimming 5 months ago due to shoulder pain. Medical examinations - x-ray, physio, acupuncture, muscle exercises, steroid injection, and an ultrasound scan were unable to diagnose or treat this problem.
The ultrasound specialist suggested that I had “pinged my biceps ligament/tendon or muscle” and to go back swimming. Seems strange to me that a “pinged” anything would last for 18 months.
I am a retired research chemist and decided to perform a simple experiment to determine if statins were the cause of these problems.
In summary –
1.Stopped taking Atorvastatin for 2 weeks. Result – all symptoms gone.
2.Started taking Atorvastatin again. Results – 1week later the symptoms returned.
A standard method to validate any experiment is to repeat it.
4. Repeated the test i.e. Stopped taking statins for 2 weeks. Results – all symptoms gone.
5. Started taking statins again. Results - symptoms returned after about a week.
6. Stopped taking Atorvastatin and returned to swimming.
Summary
I have been taking statins for 2 years and have experienced side effects as described. On stopping the medication for two weeks all side effects disappeared.
This week I have swum over a mile each day for 5 days and no pain. I am seeing my GP shortly and will mention everything to him and ask him to use the yellow card system to highlight these side effects to the appropriate organisation.
This morning I swum 11/2 miles.

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millicent1946 said on 09 April 2014

I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in July last year.
My cholesterol level was 7.2 which is quite high .
The targets for diabetes are HDL more than 1.5 and for LDL less than 2.2
But my levels are LDL 1.79 Nd HDL 4.5
My G P recommended that I take statins which I understand works on LDL
I cannot get a satisfactory explanation of why medication is considered necessary and until I do I will take the risk.
Pills often cause more problems than they solve and in my view if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

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aj60 said on 07 April 2014

Was told I have high cholesterol 8.2 also that it's genetic not dietry I have a reasonably good diet don't eat much sweet stuff, I like fruit and veg though can't eat some because they upset my stomach eg , cabbage ,sprouts ,leeks. lettuce ,cucumber.Use olive oil when i cook, and grill or oven bake most meal's eat lot's of rice and pasta and meat is usually chicken .Use mincemeat for spag bol and chilli but always the leanest i can get.
More to the point I was put on Avorstatin 20 mg I can't believe how ill these tablet's made me feel headaches daily, and what was happening to my joint's and muscle was unbelievable I couldn't do anything without pain was spending most days with a hot water bottle and painkillers couldn't even open a bottle of milk , terrible cramp's in my leg's and feet day and night hence sleepless night's. after a particulary bad day I decided to stop taking them 3-4 day's later I was amazed how much better i felt no more cramp's or headaches more joint's and muscles didn't hurt and I had energy again I don't know if there's anything I can do to lower my cholesterol but I will never ever take a drug that makes me feel like that .It's ironic because I didn't feel ill when I went to the doctor's infact I rarely go I only went because I was asked to go for a check up as I'm nearly 60. If anyone has any advice for me I would love to hear it or if you have experenced sme symptons as me

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cassie45 said on 10 March 2014

I took statins...different kinds for years until 3 years ago when the pain and weakness in my muscles got so bad i could hardly walk...and still my gp insisted there was nothing wrong. I stopped taking them...and felt a lot better
a couple of years before i stopped them...I was diagnosed type 2 diabetic...I didn't need medication...just diet and exercise...I cut out all added sugar and lost weight ...but exercise was a no no ...because of muscle weakness and pain....Then it was discovered that statins cause your blood sugar to rise...and can cause type 2 diabetes...since stopping the statins...my blood sugar readings are normal....I was not given co q 10 while i was taking statins....although the statins deplete your body of coq 10...so now i have started taking it in the ubiquinol form hoping it might undo any damaged caused by statins

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derejam said on 06 March 2014

I read a couple of years or so ago that everyone over 50 should be on statins. My Cholesterol has always been borderline so I asked my doctor to prescribe them. He put me on Simvastatin to be taken every second day. Within a couple of months I was having muscle cramps and occasional palpitations. I therefore changed to Pravastatin which has suited me fine.
Having read many of the prior comments I am wondering whether to continue. I hate taking pills of any sort . I am not overweight, take reasonable exercise, and try to eat and drink sensibly.
Something which many statin takers do not realise is that they will have quite severe reactions if they eat grapefruit. There is a warning with the pills but it is amazing the number of people who miss this

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graj0 said on 26 February 2014

I first took Atorvastatin in '97, then switched to Simvastatin because, as my GP put it, I can prescribe 3 people Simvastatin for your one lot of Atorvastatin. That's when my problems became very noticeable. Muscle pain, sleepless nights and 'foggy' head. I'd been following a low fat diet for years and had also been denying myself eggs, prawns, etc to keep my cholesterol down, as per medical advice. I wouldn't have started looking into statins had it not been for the fact that my GP tried to tell me that my muscle pain was because of my weight. Then the following year it was because I exercised too much. That's when I found the Merck Pharmaceutical patent dated 1990 suggesting they add CoQ10 to the statin to "prevent the impending muscle pain". So they knew about the muscle pain as far back as 1990. The cholesterol advice wasn't that good either, the less you eat, the more the body produces, the more cholesterol you eat, the less the body produces. Several pieces of research, University of Surrey for example to show that. The major change came when I stopped eating bread/pasta/rice/potatoes and my cholesterol dropped from 5.5 to 3.5, increased exercise also had an effect. I stopped taking statins 4 months ago and my muscle pain went very quickly, now I walk a lot more because it doesn't hurt and I don't take so much cocodomol either. I can now sleep until 06:30 every morning, it's wonderful. The foggy head hasn't gone, trouble is that might very well be old age now. If you are trying to lower cholesterol by diet, forget going without eggs or prawns, cut carbs.

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lostcause said on 12 February 2014

Hi after a week on statins I was worried as my stools were very yellow and very loose , tests were carried out and it was found that I had pancreatitis and was prescribed Creon an enzyme produced from pigs. In all your symptoms this is not noted as a [possible reaction to having taken statins. Is my case an isolated one perhaps.? Its always puzzled me.

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Gornalannie said on 10 February 2014

My husband was automatically prescribed statins following a heart attack in 2007, despite having very low cholestorol, low blood pressure and a heart beat of an athlete at rest and no other possible indications of the attack. When I questioned why he was being prescribed these, I was informed that it was BMA procedure to do so.
Within three months, his leg muscles had been "stripped," rendering him unable to walk, this required a surgical procedure and all of his teeth became loose which he then had to have removed. These tablets are being prescribed as a "one size fits all" which they obviously don't. They were removed and a substitute prescribed which suits him. Please question and do your own research as I have uncovered other horrific stories from talking to people who were also prescribed them. I have today been told by my Dr that I will have to take them but have very politely told her to shove them! I will take matters into my own hands and will try to lower it by changing my diet and lifestyle. I have given myself six months to do this.

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Christine007 said on 25 January 2014

My husband has been taking statins for many years to lower his cholestorol. He suffers from what he describes as his muscles crawling in his arms & legs. This stops him resting and occurs at nigt time. Also stops him sleeping. I wonder if he should reduce the dosage.

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cathinscotland said on 02 August 2013

My neighbour takes a statin. He's currently undergoing tests for Alzheimer's, as he is becoming very forgetful and confused. When he was diagnosed last year, with prostate cancer, I changed his diet to include oily fish, no pies/sausage rolls, more veg. His cancer is responding extremely well to his treatment and new diet. However, as his diet is now more healthy, I'm wondering, if him taking the statin, could be the cause of his memory problems? That last year or so, is when he started to have difficulties, which would coincide with his change in diet. He is undergoing more blood tests and he's to get a brain scan. I think we should mention this to his doctor? I don't know what to suggest to either his doctor, or him. He wanted to just stop the statin when I mentioned it to him, but I've told him not to, not unless the doctor says so.

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gahauss said on 03 June 2013

I have been taking Lipitor and prior to that, Zocor for more than fifteen years, since a TIA in 1997. My age is 85.

Over the past six months, I have noticed a loss in sensation in my right hand fingers and now commencing in the left hand. Toes are also commencing to feel the same but both pain and the loss of sensation in hands and feet seem to be increasing.

I also had an unexplained left wrist dislocation, which is persisting and fails to respond to physiotherapy.

I recently had a Carpal Tunnel release in the RH to treat the worst of the fingers sensation loss but this has done nothing for the hand. The operation was done for the LH five years ago.

I have stopped taking the Lipitor(atorvastatin) and intend to ask my GP about COQ10 in lieu.

GAH Australia

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lesleyW said on 21 May 2013

we find taking COQ10 mitigates the muscle pains/weakness that statins sometimes provoke. I read recently that in the original patent it was recommended statins be taken with COQ10 because they do actually reduce this within the body (and getting enough from diet is more difficult with age anyway) and in Canada the government has a warning issued with the statin reminding physicians to consider prescribing COQ10 (to get it naturally, you need to eat heart - I like mine flash-fried like good steak, my husband insists on the capsules!
Good luck.

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timmalvern said on 02 May 2013

I have read all the medical information about Cholesterol and the fact that even if you drop your Cholesterol down to under 4 your liver will compensate and bring it back to the normal level and if too high again your liver will bring it back to normal levels. Every cell in the body makes Cholesterol and without you will die. Therefore using drugs is dangerous and life threatening. My doctor checked my level years ago and it was 8, so I asked what use was taking Statins? He told me that if I lived 200 years I could expect Statins would give me an extra 3 months. I'm still alive, and fit and healthy got no pains in leg muscles ( don't forget if Statins effect muscles, your heart is also a muscle, therefore your heart can also be damaged by these drugs) I eat butter,cream, full fat milk,meat, fat, nuts,veg,fruit, but never any grains. All my relatives lived into their 90's and non took Statins, therefore I thing they cause more harm than good. Soon the Statin bomb will explode and then the usual $26 Billion a year profit made by the Pharmaceutical companies will be used in compensations.

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User729670 said on 28 November 2012

Are there studies that indicate that the Liver responds to statins by trying to create more LDL? For example, if someone were to suddenly stop taking a statin, would there be a spike in LDL in the short term after to statin was no longer being taken?

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zimmerframe said on 04 February 2011

Well, coming up for a year on Statins now.

I still take one 40mg tablet at night. I've had two blood tests last year that show my cholesterol level at a consistant 3.6. I have none of the side effects now that I reported above. My GP suggests yearly blodd check from now on

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zimmerframe said on 11 August 2010

4 months on and the muscle pains have gone. However, constipation reared its head and continues to be an intermitant problem...

Other than that, no other side effects have been felt.

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zimmerframe said on 22 April 2010

I have recently been diagnosed with CHD. 30% blackage to one heart artery. This followed a chest pain incident a couple of months ago. No surgery is required but I have been put on 40mg simvastatin to reduce my cholesterol level,(was 5.6, am told should be under 4). I am also taking low dose aspirin, (70mg) for a couple of months too.

2 weeks later and I am getting intermitant muscle pain in my left shoulder. I have seen my GP who said I should persevere with the statins. He will check again in 2 months time.

I dont smoke, (never have) dont drink, eat well and have played badminton twice a week for more than 15 years. What else can I do?

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Pendob said on 02 April 2010

I was diagnosed with diabetes 2 (at age 60) early March, Doc prescribed metformin gradually increasing to 2 tablets twice daily, He also subscribed simvastatin (because he said cholesterol was too high for diabetic) on at night 40mg tablet, as soon as I started taking I experienced pain in upper left arm so stopped for a day then pain not so bad also pain in elbow. I'm going back to docs I consider the side affects more dangerous than what they are supposed to prevent. I don't smoke or drink and walk quite a lot, so do I need statins, surely there's a more natural way.

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Reporting side effects

The Yellow Card Scheme allows you to report suspected side effects from any type of medicine you are taking. It is run by a medicines safety watchdog called the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

See the Yellow Card Scheme website for more information.