Taking A Weight Off My Shoulder


I have a confession to make.

I try to be as transparent as possible, to share as much information as I can about how the sausage is made. To that end, on at least a few occasions I’ve mentioned on this blog and on CNBC, that I’ve been on 10 milligrams of Lipitor. I consider myself to be healthy and in shape. I work out and watch what I eat. But I’m not a fanatic about my diet. My mantra is “Everything in moderation.”

My good cholesterol level is very good, but before I started taking Pfizer’s Lipitor, my bad cholesterol level was on the cusp of being too high. It dropped dramatically a short time after I started taking the pills several years ago. And just for good measure, I double up with a product called “Cholest-Off” that I buy at Costco, along with flax seed and fish oil capsules, red yeast rice capsules, garlic tabs and a daily multi-vitamin. I take that cocktail during the day and my Lipitor before I go to bed.

But in recent months, I developed what a sports medicine doc diagnosed as bursitis in my left shoulder. It was a chronic, dull pain but was occasionally acute and sharp, especially when I reached out with my left arm or turned to sleep on my left side. By the way, I’m not kvetching. I know there are many people out there with far more serious medical issues. This is not life-threatening. It’s just uncomfortable and it crimps my style, which until this came on included regular yoga or pilates classes and upper-body weight work.

The sports medicine guy gave me a couple of cortisone shots. The pain seemed to go away almost immediately, but a short time later it came back. And that’s when I decided to switch from western to eastern medicine. At the urging of my dry cleaner’s daughter, who’s studying acupuncture, I went on line and found a local needle person. This was a big step for me because I hate needles, so that gives you an idea of how desperate I was. After several treatments, including one very excruciating session, the shoulder seems to be getting better. Maybe it’s the acupuncture, maybe it’s just the old adage of time, but I’ve got more mobility and less pain.

So, what’s my confession? I stopped taking my Lipitor several weeks ago without talking to my doctor. I was concerned that maybe the known side effectof muscle pain was hurting the healing process. I know that high cholesterol is much more important to my long-term health than some shoulder pain. I haven’t gotten a blood test to see if going off the drug has caused a spike in my bad cholesterol. I’m almost afraid to see the number. I’m going to go back on the drug at some point, but I want to take care of the shoulder problem first.

I’m not a doctor. It’s not my intention for my anecdotal experience to have any kind of influence whatsoever on anyone’s drug regimen. Another pharma reporter recently asked me why I ever disclosed that I’m on Lipitor. I cover the world’s top-selling drug and the company that makes it so much, I just wanted it out there in the interest of transparency for what it’s worth. I’m not advocating that any other drug industry reporter do it. Nor am I about to say, unlike my esteemed, very smart, funny and sometimes annoying (in a good way, of course) colleague, Joe Kernen, whether I take or have taken Viagra, Cialis or Levitra.

Questions? Comments? Pharma@cnbc.com and follow me on Twitter at mhuckman