HMG-CoA

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Question

What is an HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors?

Answer

HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors are a group of prescription drugs used to lower cholesterol. They work by slowing down the body's ability to make cholesterol in the blood. Also known as "the statins," medicines in this class include atorvastatin (Lipitor®), fluvastatin (Lescol®), lovastatin (Mevacor®), pravastatin (Pravachol®), and simvastatin (Zocor®).

HMG-CoA side effects

Side effects of the statins are usually mild and some people do not experience any at all. Those who do have side effects commonly report bloating, gas, heartburn, nausea, headache, and dizziness. All of these symptoms tend to go away as drug therapy is continued. There are no real differences in the side effects caused by individual types of statins.

A rare, but more serious, side effect of statins is liver damage. Your doctor will most likely do routine blood tests to check for early signs of such problems. Symptoms of liver damage include yellow skin or eyes, dark urine, nausea and vomiting, or loss of appetite. Contact your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms. Muscle aches, tenderness, and weakness are uncommon side effects of statins. These symptoms can be merely bothersome or may be a sign of rare, but severe muscle damage called rhabdomyolysis. Be sure to report all muscle symptoms to your doctor immediately. On August 8, 2001, cerivastatin (Baycol®) was withdrawn from the market because of increasing reports of rhabdomyolysis.

You should not take statins if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or have liver disease.

HMG-CoA reductase inhibitor dosages

Statins are available as tablets or capsules and taken once daily, preferably in the evening or at bedtime. Your dose depends on your specific cholesterol and triglyceride levels. When used in equivalent doses, the various types of statins lower cholesterol to a similar degree.

Additional benefits

While it is common knowledge that statins reduce cholesterol, several recent studies have highlighted new benefits. Researchers now believe that this class of medicines may lessen the risk for strokes and improve bone structure. These two effects could change how doctors prescribe these medicines and additional studies are currently underway to better understand these possible benefits.

Learn more about high cholesterol in the Health Encyclopedia.

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