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Statins: For lowering cholesterol levels
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Statins (or HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors) are a class of drugs used to lower cholesterol levels by inhibiting the enzyme HMG-CoA reductase, which plays a central role in the production of cholesterol in the liver. Increased cholesterol levels have been associated with cardiovascular diseases, and statins are therefore used in the prevention of these diseases. Research has found that statins are most effective for treating cardiovascular disease (CVD) (secondary prevention), with questionable benefit in those without previous CVD, but with elevated cholesterol levels. Statins have rare but severe adverse effects, particularly muscle damage, and some doctors believe they are overprescribed.
The best-selling statin is atorvastatin, marketed as Lipitor (manufactured by Pfizer) and Torvast. By 2003, atorvastatin became the best-selling pharmaceutical in history, with Pfizer reporting sales of US$12.4 billion in 2008. As of 2010, a number of statins are on the market: atorvastatin (Lipitor and Torvast), fluvastatin (Lescol), lovastatin (Mevacor, Altocor, Altoprev), pitavastatin (Livalo, Pitava), pravastatin (Pravachol, Selektine, Lipostat), rosuvastatin (Crestor) and simvastatin (Zocor, Lipex). Several combination preparations of a statin and another agent, such as ezetimibe/simvastatin, are also available.
Clinical practice guidelines generally recommend people to try "lifestyle modification", including a cholesterol-lowering diet and physical exercise, before statin use is considered; statins or other pharmacologic agents may then be recommended for those who do not meet their lipid-lowering goals through diet and lifestyle approaches.
The most common adverse side effects are raised liver enzymes and muscle problems. In randomized clinical trials, reported adverse effects are low; but they are "higher in studies of real world use", and more varied. In randomized trials, statins increased the risk of an adverse effect by 39% compared to placebo (odds ratios 1.4); two-thirds of these were myalgia or raised liver enzymes, with serious adverse effects similar to placebo. Other possible adverse effects include cognitive loss, neuropathy, pancreatic and hepatic dysfunction, and sexual dysfunction.
Some patients on statin therapy report myalgias, muscle cramps, or, less frequently, gastrointestinal or other symptoms. Liver enzyme derangements, typically in about 0.5%, are also seen at similar rates with placebo use and repeated enzyme testing, and generally return to normal either without discontinuance over time or after briefly discontinuing the drug. Multiple other side effects occur rarely; typically also at similar rates with only placebo in the large statin safety/efficacy trials. Two randomized clinical trials found cognitive issues, while two did not; recurrence upon reintroduction suggests these are causally related to statins in some individuals. A Danish case-control study published in 2002 suggested a relationship between long-term statin use and increased risk of nerve damage or polyneuropathy, but suggested this side effect is "rare, but it does occur"; other researchers have pointed to studies of the effectiveness of statins in trials involving 50,000 people which have not shown nerve damage as a significant side effect.
Myositis and myopathy
Combining any statin with a fibrate or niacin, another category of lipid-lowering drugs, increases the risks for rhabdomyolysis to almost 6.0 per 10,000 person-years. Most physicians have now abandoned routine monitoring of liver enzymes and creatine kinase, although they still consider this prudent in those on high-dose statins or in those on statin/fibrate combinations, and mandatory in the case of muscle cramps or of deterioration in renal function.
Consumption of grapefruit or grapefruit juice inhibits the metabolism of certain statins. Bitter oranges may have a similar effect. Furanocoumarins in grapefruit juice (i.e. bergamottin and dihydroxybergamottin) inhibit the cytochrome P450 enzyme CYP3A4, which is involved in the metabolism of most statins (however, it is a major inhibitor of only lovastatin, simvastatin, and to a lesser degree, atorvastatin) and some other medications (flavonoids (i.e. naringin) were thought to be responsible). This increases the levels of the statin, increasing the risk of dose-related adverse effects (including myopathy/rhabdomyolysis). The absolute proscription of grapefruit juice consumption for users of some statins is controversial.
The FDA notified healthcare professionals of updates to the prescribing information concerning interactions between protease inhibitors and certain statin drugs. Protease inhibitors and statins taken together may raise the blood levels of statins and increase the risk for muscle injury (myopathy). The most serious form of myopathy, rhabdomyolysis, can damage the kidneys and lead to kidney failure, which can be fatal.
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