Statins: 5 Things Everyone Ought to Know About Cholesterol Medication

Statins, less commonly known as HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors, are a class of medications used by people who have high cholesterol. High cholesterol poses risks for potentially fatal events such as strokes and heart attacks if not treated properly with the necessary medications and/or lifestyle modifications.

Your cholesterol level is made up of both “good” and “bad” components, as well as other miscellaneous components. HDL is good cholesterol, and LDL is bad cholesterol. Statins are meant to decrease your LDL levels. According to studeies supported by the American Heart Association, statins have been scientifically shown to lower these levels by 45 percent, though this number varies with the particular drug and dosage that is used. These medications play a major role in treatment of high cholesterol.

After the 2013 update to the American Heart Association recommendations in particular, there are several people who are taking some sort of statin. Even if you have been taking one of these drugs for a long time, there are a few things that you may not know.

1.) There is an Over-the-Counter Product that Contains a Statin

Red rice yeast is a traditional Chinese medication that is available over-the-counter and has been shown to contain a statin. There are many types available, which can lead to misinformation about which ones are effective. One key issue is that some mixtures of this product contain lovastatin. Red rice yeast and lovastatin are actually chemically very similar, which is the reason for many brands being taken off the market in 2007 on an FDA ruling. It is always crucial to consult with your physician and/or pharmacist prior to beginning an over-the-counter medication. This is particularly true if you are already taking a prescription drug, due to potential drug interactions or other unforeseen complications that are possible.

2.) Statins Can Cause Muscle Pain (Rhabdomyolysis)

Rhabdomyolysis is a muscle pain caused by injury. This leads to a breakdown of muscle tissue that could potentially be harmful to the kidneys; it can actually yield kidney failure, and some people even die due to this condition. Rhabdomyolysis is a fairly uncommon side effect that comes with certain statins, although it has many other causes as well. Symptoms of this condition include stomach pain, muscle pain or weakness, nausea and/or vomiting, rapid heart rate, fever, confusion, dark red or brown urine, decreased output of urine, and dehydration. Be vigilant in making sure that it does not happen to you, but rest assured that rhabdomyolysis is very rare, and you will likely know right away if it happens. If you think you may be experiencing it, contact your physician immediately.

3.) Statins Also Increase HDL, or Good Cholesterol

Not only do statins lower LDL levels, but they have additionally proven effective in improving HDL levels. They can be responsible for a slight increase of up to 15 percent, although the exact number varies with the particular statin. If your HDL levels are very low, your physician may actually prescribe an additional medication, such as Niacin, to raise them.

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4.) Some Statins Do Not Interact with Grapefruit

If you are not happy about having to forgo grapefruit, you will be pleased to know that there are statins that do not have interactions with either the fruit or its juice. These include:

5.) Some Statins Are Available in Generic Form

Many people know this. However, it helps to know which statins in particular are available as generics, especialy if you have been prescribed Crestor or another brand-only medication. Generic drugs are cheaper than the brand names and just as effective. You can potentially save a lot of money if you talk to your doctor about the following generic drugs:

If you are taking a brand-only statin, you should be aware that they are less likely to be covered by insurance because of their cost and the fact that equally effective generic statins are available. These brand-only names include:

About Cary Byrd

eDrugSearch founder, Cary Byrd, has been called an “e-health innovator” by MarketIntellNow, interviewed by top pharmaceutical industry journalists, invited to Matthew Holt’s Health 2.0 Conference and a Consumer Report's health summit, and highlighted on numerous health blogs.

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