Plasma cholesterol level can be lowered by using statin drugs. They help to lower cholesterol levels by inhibiting HMG-CoA reductase enzyme. This enzyme functions as rate limiting enzyme of cholesterol synthesis (mevalonate pathway).
When this enzyme is inhibited in the liver, it results in decreased synthesis of cholesterol and increases LDL receptors synthesis. This results in increased removal of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) from the blood stream. After using this drug, you can see results in one week and the effect is maximum after four or six weeks.
Statins reduce the risk of getting heart attack and death in people who have been proved to have coronary artery disease. It can also lower cardiac events in people with high levels of cholesterol who are at high risk for heart disease.
Statins prevent atherosclerosis by lowering the lipid level. Researches suggest that statins help to prevent cardiovascular disease, through four mechanisms.
- Modulate inflammatory responses
- Improve endothelial function
- Prevent thrombus formation
- Maintain plaque stability
The following are the statin drugs which include:
- Crestor (rosuvastatin)
- Zocor (simvastatin)
- Pravachol (pravastatin)
- Mevacor (lovastatin)
- Lescol (fluvastatin)
- Lipitor (atorvastatin)
Simvastatin and lavastatin are available as generic drugs also.
Side effects of statins
- Statins can cause some side effects, mostly gastrointestinal such as gas, stomach upset and nausea. Sleep disturbances, dizziness, rash and headache can occur less common.
- Statins also elevate liver enzymes in some patients. Blood tests should be done after treatment in a few weeks, as there is a chance that statins can cause serious liver damage or it can result in permanent damage of the liver.
- Statins can also cause muscle disorder, which results in muscle weakness and pain in about 1 patient out of 1,000. In many cases, if the use of statin is stopped or its dose is reduced, the symptoms are resolved. Muscle damage can rarely result in death or kidney failure.