Since statin arrived in the U.S. market, it has been the most prescribed drugs with about 17 million users.
When the FDA approved Lovastatin (Mevacor), the first statin-type cholesterol-lowering drug in 1987, there was great excitement in the healthcare industry because it was perceived as a magic bullet in reducing heart-attack risks. It became the most prescribed anti-cholesterol drug in the U.S. because it was highly effective with virtually few serious side effects.
Doctors then could prevent 25% to 35% deaths from heart disease and reduce the risk of recurrent strokes or heart attack by 40%. In addition to patients already taking the medicine, about 15 to 20 million people should be taking statin drugs according to their risk factors determined by their doctor.
Statins Approved for Use in the U.S.
The statin medications approved for use in the U.S. are:
Mevacor or Altocor
How Statin drugs work?
Since too much blood cholesterol produced by the liver enzyme can cause plaque buildup on the walls of the arteries, statin drugs work by blocking this action. Statin lowers the bad cholesterol build up that cause the arteries to narrow, harden, and cause stroke or heart attack.
However, there were concerns when the manufacturers told doctors that Mevacor might increase liver enzymes, and increase cataracts risk. Dogs treated with Mevacor actually developed cataracts, and there was high prevalence of lenticular opacities in patients during the clinical trials with lovastatin.
Statins have become the most successful drugs in the pharmaceutical industry for 25 years. Tens of millions of Americans were given Cestor, Zocor, and Lipitor because physicians were convinced that these medications were essential for health. Although there were liver problem reports and fear that the drug causes cataracts, but it was not until May 20, 2010, when doctors got wind of the emerging problem following the release of an epidemiological study published in the British Medical Journal.
Moderate to serious liver problems and cataract as well as increased risk for muscle pain were reported by investigators. However, that didn’t get much media and medical attention no matter how dramatic that discovery was. Over 6,000 patients who visited an optometry clinic were studied by Canadian researchers. Diabetic patients were at greater risk of developing cataracts compare to those who did not take statins.
Rare and potentially serious side effects
Statin was associated with potentially serious side effects such as:
Myositis (muscle inflammation) – if you take the statin with another cholesterol reducing drugs, your risk of muscle damage increases.
Elevated levels of CPK (creatine kinase) – when the muscle enzyme is high, it can cause mild inflammation, muscle pain, and muscle weakness, which will take a long-time to resolve.
Rhabdomyolysis – is a condition where muscles all over the body are inflamed and damaged causing pain and weakness. The proteins released by severely damaged muscles collect in the kidneys, damaging it, which can lead to kidney failure and even death. Fortunately, this is an extremely rare condition occurring in less than one in 10,000 patients taking statin.
Challenges with Statins
While statins are good for patients with heart disease, it is not good as preventive medication for healthy patients. Some 300 side effects were linked to statins that patients do not connect to the drugs which include:
Nausea and vomiting
Constipation or diarrhea
Depletion of vital minerals like selenium and zinc
Muscle pain and damage
Statin Warning Signs
If you are pregnant or have chronic liver disease, you should not take the statin. If you are taking it, and you are experiencing any unexplained tenderness, joint or muscle pain, or weakness while taking statins, call your doctor immediately. Tell your doctor about any vitamins, herbal or over-the-counter prescription drugs you are taking before statin.
Written by: Janet Grace Ortigas