Statins are the most prescribed cholesterol medicine. The major effect of statins is to lower LDL ("bad cholesterol") levels. They lower LDL cholesterol more than other types of medications. The large reductions in total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol produced by these drugs have resulted in large reductions in heart attacks and heart disease-related deaths.
Statins inhibit an enzyme (HMG-CoA reductase) that controls the rate of cholesterol production in the body. These medicines reduce cholesterol by slowing down the production of cholesterol and by increasing the liver's ability to remove the LDL cholesterol already in the blood.
Researchers studying statins have reported 20 percent to 60 percent lower LDL cholesterol levels in people on these cholesterol medicines. Statins also reduce elevated triglyceride levels and produce a modest increase in HDL cholesterol.
Statins are usually administered in a single dose per day. Some must be taken at bedtime, but others can be taken at any time.
Most people tolerate statins well, and serious side effects are rare. The side effects usually are mild to moderate in severity and generally go away as your body adjusts. A few people will experience:
- Upset stomach
- Abdominal pain (stomach pain) or cramps.
In rare cases, a person will develop abnormalities in blood tests of the liver. Another rare side effect of statins is muscle problems, the symptoms of which are muscle soreness, pain, and weakness. If these symptoms develop, or if you have brown urine, contact your doctor right away to get blood tests for possible muscle problems.
- Atorvastatin (Lipitor®) or combination medications that contain atorvastatin (Caduet®, Liptruzet™)
- Fluvastatin (Lescol®, Lescol® XL)
- Pitavastatin (Livalo®)
- Lovastatin (Altoprev®, Mevacor®) or combination medications that contain lovastatin (Advicor®)
- Pravastatin (Pravachol®)
- Rosuvastatin (Crestor®)
- Simvastatin (Zocor®) or combination medications that contain simvastatin (Juvisync®, Simcor®, Vytorin®).