- Four months ago, Papa-san, my 82 year old father, was striding through Grand Central Station, green cloth briefcase over his shoulder.
- Three months ago, his cardiologist started him on a new cholesterol-lowering drug, Crestor. It worked like a dream; his cholesterol numbers dropped where they should drop, instantly.
- Two months ago, my husband said, "Your father seems much frailer than the last time we saw him." I didn't want to admit it, but it was obvious; he had trouble lifting his feet up the steps to my brother's house, and he needed to nap frequently.
- One month ago, my father fell off the bus to the station, hitting his head on the sidewalk. He was rushed to St. Vincent's, where they MRI'd his head and Krazy-glued the wound closed.
- Three weeks ago, he stayed home from work.
- Two weeks ago, he had trouble getting up the stairs to bed.
- A week ago, I finally found all this out and called his internist, who said, "What can I do at my office? Tell him to go to the emergency room."
He had to be carried to the car. He's been in the hospital ever since.
His doctors were mystified. They ran blood tests, cat scans, MRIs. The blood tests showed elevated levels of muscle enzymes.
It was Crestor. Crestor attacks muscle fiber even better than it attacks cholesterol. The cardiologist finally admitted that my father was "overmedicated."
Doing a search on Crestor turns up warning after warning that it can cause rhabdomyolysis, a terrible assault on skeletal muscle tissue, if given in high doses, or to Asian patients, or to people over 65. There are multiple law firms looking for Crestor victims' business. Consumer Reports, Public Citizen, and Health Canada all have advisories against the use of Crestor.
My neighbor, a 63 year old, had to be taken off it and is now in rehab.
My friend Dr. Dan, an ER doctor, said, "We had a woman in last week in her 50's who had myopathy and it was Crestor. Her doctor said, 'But she's taken it for years, and she never had a problem!' I said, 'Well she's got one now.'"
"Overmedicated"? Or should he ever have been on this medication at all?
I have found, buried in some literature about Crestor, information which the cardiologist said was outdated Internet stuff. "The problem with the Internet is that old information just sits out there."
The "outdated" information warned that Crestor could cause muscle weakness, inflammation and kidney damage, particularly in the elderly. Papa-san is lying in bed doing an amazing simulacrum of an old man with muscle weakness, inflammation and kidney damage. The "outdated" information also noted that while Crestor does amazing magic tricks with cholesterol numbers, no link has been established between taking Crestor and actual incidence of heart attack. It's like a carnival barker's trick.
The Crestor website proudly boasts that the link between Crestor and reduction of atheroschlerosis (or as Crestor calls it, "athero") has just been established. Fabulous. But it has yet to be proven that Crestor will prevent anyone from actually dying, (morbidity and mortality) and it also confirms that Crestor spent a considerable time on the market before there was any proof that it even worked against "athero."
The cardiologist evinces all the signs of being in love with this medication. "I'm on it, and so is my wife," he told me. He seems a nice man, seems to care about my father ("I live vicariously through Dad's travels"--when he talks to me of my father, he says 'So you're worried about Dad?'), but sees only the magic of the numbers game that Crestor pulls. He might very well have almost killed his own father with it, he loves it so.
The internist has implied that my father was so advanced in years and illness (he is a Cheney-level cardiac patient), that this whopping medical mistake could hardly make much of a difference. He said to my brother, "Oh, by the way, you might want to consider a DNR, just for the future." That's a Do Not Resuscitate order.
The patient was at that moment sitting up in bed reading the New Yorker.
The Crestor website says doctors should warn patients to watch out for any sign of muscle weakness or pain, and report it to the doctor. But my father's doctors didn't warn him. And he, being 82, assumed the weakness was old age at last, and didn't want to let on. He struggled through Grand Central Station as long as he could. He struggled heroically.
We don't know what the future will bring. Papa-san is slowly improving, but when you're knocked to the ground at his age, it takes a long time to get up.