There are currently five statin drugs on the market in the United States: lovastatin, simvastatin, pravastatin, fluvastatin, and atorvastatin (cerivastatin was withdrawn from the market by the manufacturer in August 2001). The major effect of the statins is to lower LDL-cholesterol levels, and they lower LDL-cholesterol more than other types of drugs. Statins inhibit an enzyme, HMG-CoA reductase, that controls the rate of cholesterol production in the body. These drugs lower cholesterol by slowing down the production of cholesterol and by increasing the liver’s ability to remove the LDL-cholesterol already in the blood. Statins were used to lower cholesterol levels in both the West of Scotland and AFCAPS/TexCAPS studies. The large reductions in total and LDL-cholesterol produced by these drugs resulted in large reductions in heart attacks and heart disease deaths.
Thanks to their track record in these studies and their ability to lower LDL-cholesterol, statins have become the drugs most often prescribed when a person needs a cholesterol-lowering medicine.
Studies using statins have reported 20 to 60 percent lower LDL-cholesterol levels in patients on these drugs. Statins also reduce elevated triglyceride levels and produce a modest increase in HDL-cholesterol.
The statins are usually given in a single dose at the evening meal or at bedtime. It is important that these medications be given in the evening to take advantage of the fact that the body makes more cholesterol at night than during the day.
Lipitor is used for those who have abnormally High cholesterol levels. When taken together with a low-fat diet, this medicine can effectively reduce LDL cholesterol, commonly referred to as the “bad” cholesterol, triglyceride levels, and total cholesterol, while increasing the HDL, or “good” cholesterol.
Revision date: July 9, 2011
Last revised: by Sebastian Scheller, MD, ScD