Interview: Duane Graveline - Medical Doctor, Astronaut, and Critic of Lipitor and Other Cholesterol-Lowering Statin Drugs
medical odyssey at the famed Walter Reed Army Hospital during the time when America's space pioneers were just beginning to study the medical effects of space flight.
After becoming a flight surgeon and participating in that space medical research, Dr. Graveline received international recognition for his research on zero gravity deconditioning, his work as a medical analyst of the Soviet bioastronautics program, and in 1965 for his selection as a scientist astronaut.
In May 2001, Dr. Graveline
was prescribed Lipitor
and subsequently developed a severe case of amnesia.
website ( www.spacedoc.net ) as forum for information about the memory-related reactions linked to statin drugs.
Based on his
experience and those of others, Dr. Graveline
has published a new book, "Lipitor
, Thief of Memory, Statin Drugs and the Misguided War On Cholesterol."
This book has added relevance today as recent studies suggest that doctors should prescribe stronger and stronger doses of cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, especially Lipitor
, the most prescribed drug in America.
Dr. Cohen: Dr. Graveline
, you have written some strong opinions about the cholesterol lowering-drug Lipitor
, the most prescribed drug in America.
: I have discovered that the stronger statin drugs such as Lipitor
can be associated with profound cognitive disturbances in some patients.
: A 70 year old lady who lives alone and chops her
own wood feared she
had intruders when she
found wood for her
buck stove all split and scattered about and discovered a plate of partially eaten food in her
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.
was the unknown intruder.
This unnerved her
, but after she
statin drug, she
reverted to her
usual alert, independent self.
A U.S. Air Force loadmaster wanted to know how long his Lipitor
associated memory lapses might last.
stopped the drug on his
own but knew his
job was in jeopardy if he
reported this event to his
A woman hiker "woke up" lost in the woods.
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.
: 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.
: Experiencing total global amnesia is nothing like you see it presented in the movies.
: I practiced medicine as a solo family doctor for 23 years until 1993.
: Initially, when I seemed to be the only case, my evidence was purely intuitive.
: Doctors, like their patients, have been completely uninformed about the cognitive side effect issue with statin drugs.
Time and again they assure and reassure their distraught patients that their memory lapses are "to be expected at their age", or are possibly a "touch of senility" or perhaps even "early Alzheimer's".
So complete has been the 'brainwashing" of doctors by pharmaceutical reps and statin drug literature that a possible side effect to the statin drug is the last thing most of them consider.
Now, after more than ten years of prescribing statins and reassuring patients of their safety, the last thing a doctor wants to hear is that he
has been wrong all this time.
Dr. Graveline: I am awaiting our watchdog FDA's explanation of the report in Pharmacotherapy involving 60 memory cases gleaned from the FDA's own Medwatch reports over the past four years.
: Over the past year my website has received just under 50,000 hits from patients all over the world interested in the side effects of statin drugs, especially the cognitive side effects of forgetfulness, confusion, disorientation, or amnesia.
Currently between 100 and 200 hits daily are being received as a result of three articles I've posted: "Lipitor
, Thief of Memory;" "Statins and the Flyer;" "Cholesterol, Friend or Foe?"
: As a former USAF and Army flight surgeon, one of the first thoughts that entered my mind after my experience with Lipitor
was what might happen if my amnesia occurred while I was piloting my ultra-light aircraft?
: I believe that excessively high starting doses -- which incidentally are the initial doses recommended by the drug companies in package inserts and the Physicians' Desk Reference (PDR) -- are a huge problem with many medications, but it is especially true with statins.
Adding scientific weight to Dr. Graveline's
concerns is the article in the July 2003 issue of Pharmacotherapy
: "Statin-associated memory loss: analysis of 60 case reports and review of the literature."
This article examines 60 cases of statin-associated cognitive impairments from the FDA's
36 cases occurred with Zocor, 23 with Lipitor
-- the most powerful statins -- and 1 case with Pravachol, with is also being prescribed at stronger initial doses today.
Most interesting are the 4 rechallenge cases: people who again developed cognitive problems with a second course of statins, just as Dr. Graveline
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