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Do cholesterol drugs cause amnesia?

Q. Am I the only person using statins who is having memory problems? It has happened with two different statins. I actually had amnesia, and that really frightened me.

I’ve been off and on simvastatin. It causes me problems with pulling up a name or a word during a conversation or writing an email. I keep going back to it because Lipitor and pravastatin gave me leg cramps and amnesia.

My doctor does not seem to believe me when I describe the amnesia incidents. I told him about buying two batteries for my car within several months with absolutely no memory of buying the first one.

I have strokes in my family on both sides, so this is very scary, and I don’t know what to do.

A. People have been telling us for more than a decade about memory problems while taking statin-type cholesterol-lowering drugs. Now the Food and Drug Administration has acknowledged that medications like atorvastatin, lovastatin, pravastatin and simvastatin can interfere with cognitive function and memory in some patients.

In addition to drugs, there are other ways to lower the risk of heart disease. We are sending you our Guide to Cholesterol Control and Heart Health with nondrug approaches and information about other types of cholesterol-lowering medicines. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (65 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. C-8, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. It also can be downloaded for $2 from our website: www.peoples pharmacy.com. Controlling blood pressure is key to reducing the risk of stroke.

Q. I have been on Ambien or zolpidem for five years for insomnia. My reflux also has gotten worse and worse until it became debilitating last year.

I’ve had every test imaginable and have seen a GI doctor and a surgeon. I have a hiatal hernia, so we all thought that was the cause of my troubles.

I stopped taking zolpidem last week, and my heartburn has improved. I haven’t worked in a year because of all the pain, so I hope it resolves itself now that I’m not taking Ambien.

A. The sleeping pill zolpidem (Ambien) can cause heartburn and other digestive problems (BMJ Open, Feb. 27, 2012). Prescribers are not always aware of this side effect, but many people have reported this reaction at www.peoples pharmacy.com.

Q. I tried the suggestion I read in your column about using New-Skin Liquid Bandage for eliminating skin tags. I have gotten rid of four tags on my neck, chest and below my armpit. I found that it takes about a week or so, applied twice a day.

A. Liquid bandage products are intended to cover cuts and abrasions. We have heard from several readers who have used such products successfully to eliminate skin tags. They often appear in skin folds. If the home remedy does not work, a physician could remove these benign, fleshy growths, which are not dangerous.

Email Joe and Teresa Graedon via their Web site: www.Peoples Pharmacy.com.


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