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Statin Drugs - An Overview

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Updated September 15, 2013

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Updated September 15, 2013
Statin drugs are cholesterol medications that possess many benefits -including the fact that statins lower cholesterol significantly.

Statins are a class of cholesterol lowering drug that work by blocking 3-hydroxy-3-methyl-glutaryl-CoA coenzyme A reductase (or HMG CoA reductase), a protein that participates in an important step in making cholesterol in the body. Six statins are currently on the U.S. market:

  • rosuvastatin (Crestor)
  • pitavastatin (Livalo)
  • atorvastatin (Lipitor)
  • simvastatin (Zocor)
  • lovastatin (Mevacor)
  • pravastatin (Pravacol)
  • fluvastatin (Lescol)
The above list is ordered from more potent to less potent. Therefore, rosuvastatin and pitavastatin are a few of the more potent statins on the market, while fluvastatin is the least potent within the statin class of drugs.

Statins positively affect all aspects of the lipid profile:

  • They lower LDL cholesterol, or “bad” cholesterol, by 18% to 65%.
  • They raise HDL cholesterol, or “good” cholesterol, by 15% to 30%.
  • They lower triglycerides by 7% to 30%.

Besides lowering cholesterol, statins possess other beneficial properties as well. This class of medications has been shown to reduce inflammation and the likelihood of a second cardiovascular event, such as a stroke or heart attack, in individuals who already have heart disease.

Sources:

Third Report of the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) Expert Panel on Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Cholesterol in Adults (PDF), July 2004, The National Institutes of Heath: The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

Okura H, Asawa K, Kubo T, et al. Impact of statin therapy on systemic inflammation, left ventricular systolic and diastolic function and prognosis in low risk ischemic heart disease patients without history of congestive heart failure. Intern Med. 2007;46(17):1337-43.

Skinner JS, Cooper A, Feder GS. Secondary prevention for patients following a myocardial infarction: summary of NICE guidance. Heart. 2007 Jul;93(7):862-4.

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