People’s Pharmacy: Transient global amnesia after taking atorvastatin
Thu., May 25, 2023
Q. My doctor prescribed Lipitor when it was a hot drug for lowering cholesterol. I was 48 years old and on no other meds. My numbers dropped dramatically. I was on no other medication and my blood sugar count was normal. My kidney function was also good for my age.
Everything was great for several years. Then I developed Type 2 diabetes, peripheral neuropathy, reduced kidney function and transient global amnesia. The TGA episodes were more frightening than all the other side effects combined.
A. We first heard about transient global amnesia from Dr. Duane Graveline in 2001. He was a former astronaut and a retired family physician. Six weeks after starting Lipitor, he experienced a six-hour episode of TGA. A complete medical workup showed no neurological problems.
He stopped taking Lipitor but was encouraged to restart the drug a year later after his annual physical. Six weeks later, he had a 12-hour episode of TGA, during which he forgot that he was a doctor and could not remember his wife’s name.
Dr. Graveline was convinced that his amnesia episodes were triggered by atorvastatin. He wrote about this topic in his book “Lipitor, Thief of Memory.”
There are relatively few reports of TGA associated with statins in the medical literature. That said, the Food and Drug Administration requires this notification in the official prescribing information: “There have been rare reports of cognitive impairment (e.g., memory loss, forgetfulness, amnesia, memory impairment, confusion) associated with the use of all statins.”
Q. You’ve written that Ozempic and Wegovy can cause hair loss. Is that an actual side effect of the medication or a result of losing a lot of weight very quickly? Some years back, I tried a severely restricted diet and lost quite a bit of hair.
I’ve been taking Mounjaro for six months. My doctor diagnosed me with insulin resistance and said I was headed for Type 2 diabetes. I had cut out fast food, but my weight was increasing again no matter what I tried.
The doctor wanted to put me on Ozempic, and I asked to try Mounjaro because I’ve heard it’s stronger. I have lost less than 20 pounds so far, but my blood glucose numbers improved dramatically. In addition, I really haven’t had much hair loss.
A. You might well be right that the hair loss some people report with semaglutide (Ozempic, Wegovy) is due to rapid weight loss. Bariatric surgery or restricted diets can lead to telogen effluvium, in which many follicles let go of their hairs.
Tirzepatide (Mounjaro) as well as semaglutide may be able to keep pre-diabetes like yours from becoming Type 2 diabetes. You can learn more about the benefits and risks of these medications, as well as nondrug approaches to blood sugar control, in our “eGuide to Preventing and Treating Diabetes.” This online resource may be found under the Health eGuides tab at www.PeoplesPharmacy.com.
Q. I started taking Xyzal for allergies. It worked well but made me sleepy during the day, so I switched to taking it in the evening.
While taking Xyzal in the morning, I had very vivid, strange dreams at night. When I switched to taking Xyzal at bedtime, the dreams became full nightmares. I stopped Xyzal and after about three days the bad dreams stopped. Have you heard of this side effect before?
A. We could find no reference to bad dreams or nightmares in the prescribing information for Xyzal (levocetirizine) or its chemical cousin Zyrtec (cetirizine). If others have experienced such reactions, we would be quite interested.
In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of King Features, 628 Virginia Drive, Orlando, FL 32803, or email them via their website: www.PeoplesPharmacy.com.
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