Perhaps no medicine today is so widely regarded as a wonder drug as the cholesterol-lowering statin. From Zocor to Lipitor to Pravachol, statins are top sellers in a country where half of American adults have High cholesterol.
In Britain, they recently became available over the counter, and there are efforts afoot in the United States to do the same.
This summer, a U.S. advisory panel set recommended cholesterol levels even lower, encouraging millions more Americans to take statins.
Because all but one member of that panel receives money from the makers of those drugs, some consumer advocates wonder about the credibility of the latest advice. Still, no one questions the overall value of these drugs.The first statin, Mevacor, came on the market in 1987. Now there are five others in the United States.
About 13 million Americans take statins - roughly one-third of the number for whom they’re recommended.
A federally funded program, the National Cholesterol Education Program, was formed in 1985 to help educate Americans about this risk factor.
Its revised guidelines, issued in July, have been criticized by some as too aggressive for groups such as the elderly, women and diabetics.
They advise people at high risk of a heart attack to get their level of LDL or “bad” cholesterol to 70, instead of 100, the previous target. The guidelines urge people at moderate-to-high risk to aim for 100 versus the previous target of 130.
Revision date: June 14, 2011
Last revised: by Jorge P. Ribeiro, MD