Tags: High Cholesterol | statin | cholesterol | drug | safety

Should I Take Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs?

By    |   Tuesday, 22 April 2014 10:17 AM

Question: What's your honest opinion about statins? The doctors and drug companies are always pushing them, but I also worry about the downsides. What do you think? Would you take them, if you had high cholesterol?

Dr. Hibberd's answer:
Statin drugs have been some of the most outstanding and important medical discoveries of the last 20 years. The downside risks of the newer-generation statins are relatively few for most of us, and severe reactions are very uncommon when used as prescribed by their physician. The regular monitoring of liver function initially recommended when statins first came on the market has been significantly relaxed for the newer generation agents, and adverse effects are easily reversed by drug interruption.
You need to avoid grapefruit products and should avoid excessive use of alcohol and excessive supplement use when on these medications. There is no doubt these drugs pack a punch, and it is your and your doctor's responsibility to be sure the risk/benefit ratio is in your favor.
Remember these agents are for long-term use, and interruption for a few days may be advised by your M.D. Sometimes it might be wiser to interrupt a statin for seven to 10 days or so when treating an illness, for instance, (especially with some antibiotics we use) to decrease the potential for an adverse drug interaction. Statins have a powerful effect of decreasing LDL (bad cholesterol), while increasing HDL (good cholesterol), and have been life saving for many patients. Statins do provide protection against heart attack and stroke, and actually have a separate anti-inflammatory effect that appears to be useful in preventing the onset of memory problems and dementia.
These drugs are increasingly being taken as preventive strategies for vascular disease. I personally do use a statin as preventive agent and am certain that the benefits far exceed the rare incidence of side effects that we see. The first-generation statins were more difficult to use and did have more frequent side effects. The newer third-generation statins (such as Crestor) are much more forgiving and have a pronounced increased safety.

We have learned that all statins are not the same, and that side effects on one statin may not be seen with other statins. We have also learned to avoid certain drug combinations when on statin drugs and also have found that certain foods like grapefruit will prolong the action of these agents unpredictably, and should be avoided.
The reason you see such a strong push to use them relates to their use in prevention of recurrent heart attack and stroke, both in those who have suffered from these conditions and in those felt to be at risk for these vascular disorders. Statins are great drugs and can be used very safely for the vast majority of us with little downside risk when used and monitored appropriately by your M.D. 

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Statins are safe, but some people have better experiences with certain cholesterol-lowering drugs than others.
statin, cholesterol, drug, safety
Tuesday, 22 April 2014 10:17 AM
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