Statins: Uses, most common brand names, and safety information
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According to the CDC, almost 94 million Americans age 20 years and older have total cholesterol levels above 200 mg/dL (borderline high), while 28 million have total cholesterol levels above 240 mg/dL (high). High cholesterol levels typically have no symptoms, so many people don’t know that their cholesterol is too high until they have complications such as a heart attack or stroke. A simple blood test performed by your doctor can check your cholesterol levels. Treating high cholesterol will usually consist of a cholesterol medication along with diet and exercise. The most popular class of prescription drugs used to lower cholesterol levels are statins. It is estimated that over 200 million people worldwide take a statin for their heart health. Here we will discuss in more depth the properties, brand names, pricing, and safety of statins.
The list below includes FDA-approved statins and their pricing:
List of Statins
There are also some combination medicines that contain statins which are used to treat high cholesterol and prevent heart disease complications, including:
- Caduet (amlodipine/atorvastatin)
- Vytorin (simvastatin/ezetimibe)
- Roszet (rosuvastatin/ezetimibe)
What are statins?
Statins, which are also known as HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors, are a class of medications that are used along with diet and exercise to help lower blood cholesterol levels. Statins can help your body reabsorb the cholesterol in your blood vessels that could cause blockages. These medications can also reduce triglycerides (blood fats) and raise your good cholesterol (HDL) levels. The American Heart Association recommends that adults who have cardiovascular disease and are at high risk for a heart attack or stroke take a statin.
What is the mechanism of action of statins?
Statins inhibit a liver enzyme called HMG-CoA reductase that plays a role in your liver’s production of cholesterol. When the action of this enzyme is blocked, statins can lower LDL cholesterol levels by 30% to 50%. Statin medications also reduce your plasma concentrations of total cholesterol, VLDL, and triglycerides, while increasing your levels of HDL.
What conditions are statins used to treat?
Statins are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) along with diet and exercise to treat hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol levels) by lowering total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL), and triglycerides while increasing high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL) levels. This helps reduce your risk of a heart attack, coronary artery disease (angina, heart attack), stroke, and other heart-related complications from conditions such as diabetes, atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, obesity, and familial hypercholesterolemia.
Are statins safe?
The use of statins is relatively safe and effective when taken as prescribed. Before beginning treatment with statins, tell your healthcare provider if you have any of the following:
- A known allergy to a statin or any of the inactive ingredients in its formulation
- Heart disease
- Liver problems
- Kidney problems
What are some common side effects of statins?
The adverse effects you experience from statins will depend on several factors including the medication and dose. Some common side effects of statins include:
- Muscle aches
Statins can sometimes cause more serious side effects, including:
- Muscle damage (rhabdomyolysis)
- Memory loss or mental confusion
- Increased blood sugar and type 2 diabetes
- Kidney injury or failure
- Liver impairment
- Inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis)
This is not a complete list of side effects and we encourage you to consult with your healthcare professional for medical advice about any possible side effects.
What are some contraindications of statins?
Statins should be avoided if you:
- Are pregnant, plan on becoming pregnant, or are breastfeeding
- Have active liver disease
- Have persistently elevated liver enzyme levels
What are some drug interactions with statins?
The use of statins with certain foods or medications can affect how they work or increase the frequency and severity of side effects. Make sure your healthcare provider is aware of all the over-the-counter supplements and prescription medications you are taking, including:
- Grapefruit juice
- Fibrate drugs such as gemfibrozil
- St. John’s Wort
- Bile acid sequestrants such as cholestyramine
- Protease inhibitors, a treatment for HIV
How long does it take muscle pain to go away after stopping statins?
Muscle pain is a fairly common side effect of statins, with between 5% to 20% of patients reporting it. If you develop muscle pain while on a statin, you should stop the medication and notify your doctor immediately. You may be able to take a different statin or cholesterol-lowering medication to reduce your risk of side effects. Once stopping a statin, the muscle pain will typically resolve within 1 to 2 weeks. If you still are having muscle pain after 2 weeks, it may be due to something else.
Should I take coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) with a statin to help prevent muscle pain?
Statin use can lower the amount of CoQ10 in your body. Some researchers think this contributes to side effects such as muscle pain. While some research has suggested that CoQ10 may help with statin-associated muscle symptoms (SAMS), there aren’t any clinical studies that have shown its effectiveness in treating SAMS. You should discuss the possible risks and benefits with your doctor before starting a CoQ10 supplement.
How long does it take for statins to lower your cholesterol?
While your cholesterol will begin to lower within the first few weeks of starting a statin, it can take between 2 to 3 months before you see the full benefit. You will see better results if you take a statin along with lifestyle changes such as improving your diet and exercise habits.
Do statins cause diabetes?
Statin therapy is associated with a slightly increased risk of diabetes in patients who already have other diabetes risk factors. These risk factors include gestational diabetes, family history of diabetes, and people over the age of 45. For most patients, the benefits of statins preventing heart problems such as heart attacks and strokes outweigh the risk of diabetes.
Do statins increase your risk of dementia?
A study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC) looked at statin use among almost 19,000 people aged 65 and older who were part of a randomized trial using aspirin. The study found that over a five-year period, people who took statins weren’t any more likely than non-users to have dementia. It should be noted that the effects of statins on cognitive function are still not fully understood.
When is the best time to take statins?
The recommended time to take statins will depend on the type of statin you are taking. Statins with shorter half-lives, such as Mevacor/Altoprev (lovastatin), Pravachol (pravastatin), Lescol XL (fluvastatin), and Zocor (simvastatin), should be taken in the evening. These statins work better when taken in the evening because the liver enzyme that produces cholesterol is more active overnight. Statins with longer half-lives, such as Lipitor (atorvastatin), Livalo (pitavastatin), and Crestor (rosuvastatin), can be taken at any time of the day. You should always take these medications at the same time each day.
Do statins cause weight gain?
According to a data analysis that followed 28,000 U.S. adults for more than a decade, statin users increased their calorie intake increased by 10% and fat intake by 14%. People not taking statins did not see any significant change in calorie and fat intake. Body mass index (BMI) also increased more in statin users (1.3 kg/m^2) than in non-users (0.4 kg/m^2).
When should statins be stopped in the elderly?
Statins reduce the risk of arteriosclerotic heart disease (ASCVD) and death in patients aged 75 to 84 who have type 2 diabetes (T2DM) and in patients over 75 years of age with known ASCVD. Statins do not seem to have any benefit to patients over 75 years of age who do not have ASCVD or in patients ages ≥ 85 years without ASCVD, regardless of whether they have T2DM.
How much do statins cost?
Statins are very expensive with an average cost of around $5,000 per year.
You can purchase statins for $49 per month from NiceRx if eligible for assistance. Prices at the pharmacy vary by location, strength, and quantity, as well as your insurance status.
Related resources for statins
The content on this website is intended for information purposes only. It does not constitute medical advice. The information on this website should not be relied upon and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. You should always speak to your doctor regarding the risks and benefits of any treatment.