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Mary Shomon

The Effect of Statin Drugs on the Thyroid

By November 6, 2008

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Patients with a low TSH who are taking statin drugs -- drugs to lower cholesterol -- are three to four times likely to have normal radioiodine uptakes and scans that patients not taking a statin drug. Researchers speculate that either statins are improving or modifying the hyperthyroidism (possibly due to the antiinflammatory effect), or they may be causing falsely low TSH levels. (This situation, where the thyroid is normal but TSH levels are low, is called pseudohyperthyroidism.)
Seth D. Yandell, William C. Harvey, Neil J. Fernandes, Patrick W. Barr, Mark Feldman. Thyroid. October 1, 2008, 18(10): 1039-1042

Interestingly, there is also evidence that the statin drug simvastatin (Zocor) can improve Hashimoto's Thyroiditis. Patients with Hashimoto's Thyroiditis were given 20 mg/day of simvastatin for 8 weeks. After 8 weeks, the patients taking simvastatin had increased Free T3 and Free T4 and decreased TSH levels, as well as emphasis of improved immune system modulation and activity.
Gullu S, et. al. "In vivo and in vitro effects of statins on lymphocytes in patients with Hashimoto's thyroiditis." Eur J Endocrinol. 2005 Jul;153(1):41-8

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Comments
November 7, 2008 at 12:42 pm
(1) Anna says:

I’d never take a statin, though. They are of no proven benefit to women, the elderly, or men under the age of 55 who haven’t already had a CVD event. The side effects of statins can be very debilitating, including muscle aches and weakness, heart muscle atrophy, memory loss, dementia, and erectile dysfunction. The number number of patients to treat with these expensive, damaging drugs is around 100 just to prevent one CVD occurrence, which is a terrible ratio!

November 7, 2008 at 1:02 pm
(2) C Davis says:

I took Lipitor for high chlorestrol (which is due to my hypothyroid condition) and I also have fibromyalgia. I was in such pain while taking Lipitor, I had to quit. The pain was crippling! Since the high chlorestrol is due to hypothyroidism, and the Lipitor caused such great pain, I am now on a regimen of omega-3 fish oils, metamucil, and vitamin B-12 shots, which have improved my condition quite a bit! Rather than treating the chlorestrol problem with these dangerous statin drugs, the medical community should be looking at treating the hypothyroidism, which is a cause of high chlorestrol, with more gentle, natural means.

November 21, 2011 at 7:27 am
(3) cheryl says:

I have the same medical conditions and experience with lipator. I just put on simvastatin after years of not taking anything out of fear of the return of side effects. I don’t I really don’t want to be on this medication. Is you method still working?

November 7, 2008 at 2:05 pm
(4) Dave says:

I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s in 1991 and my TSH levels were monitored for several years until I went on levothyroxine in 2000. The TSH range was between 2.5 and 5.7 until it spiked to 12.4 in 2000. Since then, the TSH has been under 2.0, currently 1.17.

In 2002, my total cholesterol hit 292 and I was put on Lipitor. Since then, the readings have ranged from 149 to 193, currently 167. I have not noticed any side effects from this statin.

November 8, 2008 at 9:39 am
(5) Lynda says:

I am a 57 year old Hashi’s patient (diagnosed 8 years ago) who was recently diagnosed with high cholesterol. I was prescribed Zocor, but was unable to tolerate it due to the intense muscle pain I experienced. My TSH, FT3 and FT4 levels have been at good levels for some time, I had already made dietary adjustments and regular exercise, so I’m now trying Niaspan, a prescription form of niacin, along with omega-3 fish oil and a fiber supplement to reduce cholesterol levels, and will be rechecked in 8 weeks. Whatever the outcome, I will not use statins again!

November 8, 2008 at 4:02 pm
(6) HeartHawk says:

I am no fan of drugs but let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Statins do have a place in controlling heart disease. Yes, they have both good and bad effects but we should neither adopt them nor dismiss them on the basis of blog posts. We all react to drugs differently, even among different drugs of the same class. One person’s poison may be another’s salvation.

There are many things short of stopping any and all statins if they are working for you. Try different prescriptions, especially the newer drugs that allow lower or every other day dosing. Try Co-Q10 for muscle aches.

Many can and do control their heart disease without statins. The fish oil, niacin, and other supplements mentioned can work wonders (as can diet). And let’s not forget the importance of thyroid health in fighting heart disease. Statins may also help the thyroid if used cautiously. Levothyroxine and Armour Thyroid also have risks but for most they provide a benefit.

I have heart disease and Hashimoto’s and have taken all the above drugs (and more). I went through the statin side effects and now use a mere 5mg of Rosuvastatin every other day along with 150mg of CoQ10 (and fish oil, Niaspan, and other drugs/supplements).

The truth is, we are all unique. Go slow, find a good doc, and work together to customize what works best for YOU!

Looking out for your heart health,

HeartHawk

November 8, 2008 at 6:42 pm
(7) Cathie says:

I took Crestor for high Cholesterol and the pain in my arms became so dilbilhating that i had to quit. That was last March. I am still having some muscle pain. I have been trying to take Magnesium and Red Yeast Rice, Omega-3 fish oil, Calcium, vitamin D, losing weight, exercise etc. But my cholesterol is not better and i still don’t think my Thyroid is under control either.

November 8, 2008 at 11:19 pm
(8) Willa says:

I have Hashimotos and also have high cholesterol due to heredity. I take 10 mg. Lipitor 3 times a week and that keeps my LDL around 100. I also take 100 mg. Q-10. I have not experienced muscle or joint aches. Before Lipitor I tried everything from fish oil caps, lots of fiber and nothing worked. My doc who is supposed to be one of the best in this area said thyroid disease has nothing to do with high cholesterol. I think he is wrong.

November 9, 2008 at 9:26 am
(9) Kabl says:

I would not recommend statins and was surprised that you featured it on your page Mary.
I also was prescribed statins for the high cholesterol linked to under treated thyroid whilst on T4 only treatment for 4 years.I developed terrible nck and shoulder pains within weeks of being put on Bestatin. Unfortunately I did not make the link and it was only this year that I discovered the “we have stopped our statins” Yahoo group.
Instead of going onto statins try natural thyroid therapy which should help your cholesterol too.

November 9, 2008 at 2:16 pm
(10) Jan says:

I have high LDL, but my HDL is also very high, averaging about 100! I’m sure it must be family genes. All my doctors through the years have told me not to worry because of my good HDL. One doctor did try to put me on Zocor, but after seeing how it nearly killed my husband, I refused. I began to use Policosanol and within the first couple months of using it my LDL came down 46 points and my triglycerides also came down. However, there is only ONE kind of Policosanol that works and that is the kind made from sugar cane. I ran out once and got a GNC Policosanol made from sugar beets and my LDL went right back up! Statin drugs are killers!

March 3, 2011 at 9:42 am
(11) margie says:

for many people Statin drugs are life savers, your experience is simply your experience, it doesn’t apply to everyone.

November 11, 2008 at 1:53 pm
(12) Ellen says:

I was diagnosed with CFS in 1993. I developed Orthostatic Intolerance in 1999 and ultimately had to stop working at the end of 2000. I’ve been disabled since 1/1/01. I’ve had hereditary hyperlipidemia for over 20 years, with it getting progressively worse. I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism in 2/01. I was put on Thyrolar at the time, have gone off of it for periods of time when I’ve felt over-medicated, and always regretted it. I immediately put on weight, my lipids spike (especially my trigs…as high as the 1100s), my hair falls out, etc. I recently stopped my Vytorin because of cost. My thyroid went crazy, my total cholesterol hit 393, and all the bad thyroid symptoms hit. I’m back on Armour now, with a doctor who showed me a neat trick to figure out how much I need each night. I just found out I’m allergic to all grasses, trees, and weeds, and was put on DiFlucan, an antifungal medication allergists use to stop massive anti-inflammatory processes. I was also diagnosed pre-diabetic because of high insulin with my high trigs. Back on Vytorin, Armour, and the DiFlucan, I’ve lost 8 pounds in a week (also on a mostly protein diet now because of the insulin problem), the debilitating pain I’ve had for 15 years (because of tolerance, I now take oxycodone) has diminished to the point I’m down to over 50% less of the oxycodone in a 3 week period, and I feel the best I have in 15 years. Vytorin is the only drug (part Zocor) that has ever impacted my lipids. I also take Tricor for the trigs intermittently. I will likely start it again now. But, getting “everything” treated at one time by one doctor has made all the difference in the world. I’m not going to die from arteriosclerosis, as my mother and her 2 brothers did, or have the heart attacks some of my cousins are having (I just turned 58), I’m not going to be fat because of untreated “pre-diabetes” and under treated hypothyroidism, and the massive allergies have never before been tested for, so stopping the constant “fight/flight” syndrome in which my body has been for God knows how long may end the joint and muscle pain, or at least continue to greatly diminish it. Under treated hypothyroidism has long been known to cause lipid “issues”. You simply cannot ignore a bad lipid profile when you have a thyroid problem. Both must be treated. Treating one doesn’t fix the other. You DO need a doctor that understands the correlation. Mine did not, so I found a new one. I may find myself un-disabled, but too old to find a job.

November 13, 2008 at 10:11 pm
(13) TexasTopaz says:

I was prescribed Lipitor with several side effects noted in 6 weeks. Yes LDL improved & so did HDL but I was irritable, S.O.B., sleeplessness, forgetful and suffered heart a-fib and chest pain so extreme I thought I was having a heart attack.
I am a nurse and I believe some of the increased Alzheimers and dementia diagnosis are actually side effects of statin drugs. My Dr. dismissed my complaints, suggested I stop Lipitor and begin Crestor—-which is the Strongest of these drugs….I will NEVER take again….
JUST LIKE Celebrex & Viox, amazing treatments for inflammation, Statins will be recalled

November 19, 2008 at 1:18 pm
(14) mo says:

Holy Moly! Poeple learn what you can about fluoride and it’s insidious ways of eating up your health on many levels. Since becoming aware of this toxicity and actively taking avoidance and detoxing measures my cholestrol has gone from 365 to 120 in 6 months time without taking meications. Along with this I have stopped having hot flashes, insomina, chronic fatigue muscle aches and pains from fibromyalgia. My mental acuity has sharpened, as so has my memory and I have hope now of leading the rest of my life not just getting sicker with no clue why it was happening.

I have been told fully one thrird of the over the counter and perscription meds have fluoride in them and are not required by the FDA to be listed. Difulcan is chocked full of fluoride. Educating yourself about this can only help improve your health and well being.

Mary send them to http://www.TheFluorideActionNetwork.com if you will so they can learn how truly hand and hand many thryoid conditions are with fluoride toxicity or exposures. Mo

December 1, 2008 at 4:53 pm
(15) Donna says:

Ellen, can you share what the trick is your Dr. gave you to determine at night how much Armour you will need? Very interesting! I’ve taken it close to 35 years, and feel it needs adjusting somewhat from time to time. TIA!

April 5, 2009 at 2:32 am
(16) KGN says:

I’m a male. In late 2008, I had a golf ball sized nodule along w/half of my thyroid removed (contained Hurthle cells, but did not indicate carcinoma in biopsy). Luckily, the final biopsy indicated the nodule had not become cancerous. The final diagnosis was Hashimotos Thyroiditis.

I’ve been taking 125micrograms/day of Synthroid ever since along w/20mg/day Simvastatin. I will be taking the Synthroid for the rest of my life. I’m lucky not to have had any of the side effects while taking this drug.

The recent discovered benefits imo outweigh the risks. Reduced chance of heart attack, reduced chance of stroke. Also, just recently, it was found that statin drugs can also prevent Deep-Vein Thrombosis, which is something that runs in my father’s side (he took Cumadin for at least 25 years before he died to prevent clots). I plan on taking the Simvastatin until a doctor tells me to stop.

April 27, 2009 at 2:20 pm
(17) François says:

My father, then 81,long time hypothyroid patient, was given statins after his heart attack. A year later was hospitalized 2 weeks for a neuromuscular disorder with creatine kinase tests going through the roof, even after stopping Lipitor for several weeks, only to find out his TSH was at 18. A Synthroid increase of 25 mcg improved things considerably.

And the medical community considers normal that elderly people have their TSH a little higher…What a shame.

April 27, 2009 at 2:34 pm
(18) François says:

One more thing.
If statins have a beneficial effect on hyperthyroidism, an equivalent detrimental effect must be observed on hypothyroidism. Statins may be goitrogen drugs

An article on statins shown to cut on prostate cancer may just be a sign that lower metabolism lowers cancer – great news for undertreated hopothyroid patients!!! ;-)

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124071529612156433.html

August 14, 2009 at 1:10 am
(19) rendev says:

Hi
According to a study in the University of Michigan, announced Statins may reduce the risk of dementia and loss of memory. But some people advice not to use statins in preventing dementia due to the side effects of drug.
Cholesterol-lowering statin drugs have had a rough time of it lately. Thank you for sharing this article, this is very informative.
Thanks!

August 26, 2009 at 2:10 pm
(20) Guest in MO says:

Quick question: is there any evidence of statin CAUSING hypothyroid condition (just got back from dr. and TSH elevated 5.45 compared with ~2yrs ago of about 2). I only used Lipitor for a few months — but stopped after wife had the side affects (muscle neuropathy with sever pain) which did not go away! Since both conditions are auto-immune disorder — is it reasonable to suggest drug might have brought it on? (still to get test for T4 for complete diagnosis, but otherwise is suggestive of thyroid)

November 1, 2010 at 10:21 am
(21) JM says:

Hello. I want to confirm another person on CRESTOR and it appearing to HYPOTHRYOIDISM and near recent death experience. Anyone with any similar story or solution to what can be done about long-term health issues as a result of this drug, please contact me at mj fit 34 at gmail dot com. Thank you.

November 9, 2010 at 3:25 pm
(22) HotCocoa says:

Mary,
An earlier post expressed surprise that you feature this article. I second that. My thought would be that you’d include a holistic health view of statins, which is that their basis–high cholesterol as “bad”–is a myth(created by Big Pharma, naturally). Ample research is available regarding this. As prior commentors have noted, the drug also has worrisome side effects.

Dr. Mercola, who publicly supports your book, has published information about the myth of cholesterol and heart disease.
Just in case this page permits links to be pasted in, here’s one at Mercola (but there are other articles there, too): http//articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2010/08/10/making-sense-of-your-cholesterol-numbers.aspx

If you are going to include the subject of statins on this site, please give a more balanced view. Someone less informed who views the research you have here (re: how statins can be of value to those with hypothroidism) could incorrectly draw the conclusion that statins are acceptable for over-all health.

This last point includes sarcasm (not directed personally to you, Mary, but rather at the seeming idiocy of the research you included). If calming an over-active thyroid is desired but without regard for over-all health, then why not simply reduce iodine consumption, while dosing on the big quantities of fluoride found in most municipal water supplies, as well as in innumerable food and personal care products?

In short, this “research” rather reminds me of a Big Pharma PR piece. It’s not something I’d ever expect to see on your (otherwise helpful) site. Thanks for hearing my feedback., and thanks for your longstanding fine efforts.

August 18, 2011 at 9:47 pm
(23) MDM says:

The person who sugested that statins reverse hyperthyroidism because they are goitrogens has a very good point because they also worsen hypothyroidism so they are just reducing all thyroid function both abnormally high and normal.

March 2, 2012 at 11:48 am
(24) Colleen Phillips says:

I’ve been on Lipitor for 14 years, since age 42. It’s done a great job lowering my cholesterol, and I haven’t had any side effects until now. Results of my last lab work showed mildly elevated liver enzymes, which concerns me. Strong family history of cardiovascular disease on both sides of my family – without medication, my cholesterol is around 335. I feel that the benefits outweigh the risks for me, and I hope I don’t have to discontinue use due to liver damage. Have a feeling that, without Lipitor, my arteries would clog pretty quickly, even with healthy lifestyle and diet, and fish oil supplements, etc. My liver manufactures way more cholesterol than I need, and no amount of natural treatment can change my genetic “curse.” My father had his first heart attack and my mother had her first ‘big’ stroke around my age now. So far, my coronary arteries show NO soft plaque whatsoever – I give the credit to Lipitor. (I’ve also tried Pravachol and Zocor, neither of which had any effect on my high cholesterol.) I’ve been recently diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, so maybe my statin will help preserve my thyroid function, or at least slow down the progress of the disease – I hope so.

March 15, 2012 at 12:40 pm
(25) Linda says:

My experience with all statins is that over time (1-3 years use) I experience high protein in my urine (kidneys). I’m off stains for good! I am hypothyroid since 1992. I take fish oil (4800mg) every day and my triglyericides are excellent.\

April 13, 2012 at 12:06 pm
(26) Dawn says:

I remember reading how the cholesterol myth for heart disease came about and it struck me how many false beliefs there are in the medical system which are stuck to like glue because of the blind leading the blind. I have to wonder though why the patients are also following the cholesterol myth when so many studies show it is not that which causes heart disease at all. Also if you have high cholesterol levels your body is making it for a reason and you are there knocking down the figures to make it fit a blood test result? After what we know about the TSH? Are we not learning anything? Why not find the reason for the elevated cholesterol instead?

July 19, 2012 at 12:06 pm
(27) jane says:

I am on armour thyroid and recently put on lipitor, I have to tell you I feel better, I also take coenzyme 10

September 27, 2012 at 4:44 am
(28) Rita Marshall says:

I doubt very much that statins have any beneficial effects on the thyroid, in fact, quite the contrary. My cholesterol level was 310 before being put on Lipitor 10mg every other 2 months. It had little effect despite regular exercise and a healthy diet. I was then put on Zocor 20mg for 2 months and the problems started. Having been able to run 5 miles with no problem, within the 4 months after stopping Zocor I was unable to run 500 yards until even my mouth quivered whilst eating due to the severe muscle weakness.( Note that the effects of statins can continue well after you discontinue treatment. ) My CK level shot up to 1140 and I was told I had severe damage to my skeletal muscles and at risk of having a heart attack. My TSH at that time was in the high normal range. As time progressed I developed severe stabbing pains around my torso which spread to my head. I was then sent to a rheumatologist who gave me a course of vitamins, calcium and active vitamin D supplements but the pain just got more severe until I could no longer stand to do the cooking and could not walk without soft, thick padding under my feet. The pain was unbearable. Through reading on the internet I discovered that one could take levothyroxine if one’s TSH was over 3. I went back to the doctor and my TSH reading was 6.9. I started levothyroxine and the pain subsided although I still have periferal nerve damage and weakness. I believe that statins caused my thyroid failure and that my antibodies mistook my thyroid for the statin. Considering that cholesterol is essential for healthy nerve function I would rather have a slightly high cholesterol level than risk severe nerve damage. I have tried Lipitor once since taking Levothyroxine and the pain returns immediately. I think statins are a very high risk drug and would prefer to deal with the high cholesterol through exercise and supplements rather than being at risk of going through such severe pain again.

December 28, 2012 at 3:04 pm
(29) Josephine Goetz says:

I had been taking 30mg Armour Thyroid to boost my thyroid function which previously was hyperactive then turned hypo after many years in remission from Graves disease. My Dr. put me on 5mg simvastatin as a PET scan indicated I had some arterial plaque. After 3 weeks on this drug I was in so much pain, heart palpitations, weakness, shortness of breath, trembling hands etc. MY thyroid shot up in to the hyper category again. Dr. thinks just a coincidence that I may be having reoccurrence of Graves. I am convinced I had somekind of drug interraction. Just took new round of blood tests and gave me an 11 day perscription of Prednisone to see if pain and weakness subside.
I wish I had never agreed to take the Statin.

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