August 8, 2009

Statins An Important Group of Drugs that Lower Cholesterol

What are Statins?

Statins are a category of drugs that reduce the level of cholesterol in your blood.

How do they work?

They inhibit the enzyme in the liver that is responsible for making cholesterol

For what conditions are they used?

Statins are used for the reduction of cholesterol and for the prevention and treatment of atherosclerosis.

Atherosclerosis is a condition in which cholesterol containing plaques are formed in arteries.  These plaques block arteries and reduce blood flow to the heart resulting in heart disease.

It is important to emphasize that high levels of cholesterol are not always necessary for plaques to form.

Statins are able to slow the formation of new plaques by lowering the production of cholesterol, they can reduce the size of plaques that already exist and may also reduce the risk to the patients by stabilising plaques so that they don’t break away and block arteries.

Are there differences amongst Statins?

They differ in their ability to reduce cholesterol, in how strongly they interact with other medication that increases the blood concentration of the Statin, and in the frequency with which they cause severe muscle damage. Cerivastatin was withdrawn worldwide because it caused severe muscle damage one hundred times more often than other statins.

What are their side effects?

The most common side effects are:

  • muscle pain
  • weakness
  • rash
  • diarrhoea
  • constipation
  • vomiting
  • nausea
  • headache

The rare but most serious side effects are liver failure and Rhabdomyolysis (very serious damage to muscles).  The latter can progress to kidney failure and death.

Examples of Statins approved for use in the United States of America.


Brand Name

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More On Statins

Statins can help prevent a second stroke

Therapy with statins after a first stroke reduces the incidence of a second stroke.