The Adverse Drug Reactions Advisory Committee has received 52 reports of amnesia from patients taking the cholesterol-fighting drug Lipitor - 32 in the past year-and-a-half.
In New York, two lawsuits were recently launched against Pfizer, Lipitor's maker, by plaintiffs claiming a range of side-effects, including memory loss. Pfizer is fighting the claims, which it says have no scientific basis.
Lipitor, which protects against heart problems, is the Federal Government's single biggest expense on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. In 2004-05, it cost taxpayers $508 million for 7.6 million prescriptions.
Associate Professor Duncan Topliss, chairman of the committee, said amnesia was mentioned in the product information but there was no proven link between memory loss and Lipitor. However, he said the committee would continue to monitor the side-effect.
"We are not saying that this is something to be completely discounted, but we don't think this is a particularly crucial or major problem," said Dr Topliss, director of The Alfred's department of endocrinology and diabetes.
He said the increase in reports might be linked to a visit to Australia by US doctor Duane Graveline, who was promoting his book Lipitor: Thief of Memory. "The most important thing about these drugs is that they do save lives," Dr Topliss said. "But if people are concerned they have a side-effect, they should tell their GP."