Are you one of the 22 percent of Americans 45 or older who use a statin drug to control your high cholesterol? Chances are it's working. But a new warning by Consumer Reports points out a potential dosage problem you should be aware of.
Like many other drugs, the dosage for statins is sometimes figured for a "generic" adult. But if you're a petite woman who weighs 120 pounds or a hefty guy pushing 300, you may not be getting the right amount of medication. Consumer Reports urges you to ask your doctor to find out if your size was taken into account in determining dose.
People with high cholesterol are at risk of heart disease. An estimated 102 million Americans have high cholesterol. Some 25 million of them are on statins.
In general, you want to take the lowest amount of a medication possible to get the beneficial effect. More of a good thing is not always better. With statins, more might mean you have really low cholesterol — but that can come at a price of more side effects.
Statins have been on the market for decades and are generally safe. The primary side effects are stomach upset, sleep problems and rashes. In more extreme cases, pain and muscle weakness or liver damage may occur.
According to Johns Hopkins Medical Letter: Health After 50, all statins reduce cholesterol levels by at least 20 percent. They work by inhibiting an enzyme in your liver that produces cholesterol. This leads to lower LDL, the "bad" cholesterol; higher HDL, the "good" cholesterol; and lower triglycerides associated with heart disease. But there are differences among the drugs:
After 6 weeks in a randomized controlled trial that compared the potency of the various statins, Crestor (rosuvastatin) lowered LDL cholesterol by 46% to 55%... Lipitor (atorvastatin) by 37% to 51%... Zocor (simvastatin) by 28% to 46%... Pravachol (pravastatin) by 20% to 30%. But in addition to potency, other medical and nonmedical factors may influence statin choice.
Cost for one. It varies from $11 a month to $200, depending on the dose and the brand. Consumer Reports suggests that patients could save $1,000 a year by taking the generic Lovastatin instead of one of the more expensive brand name drugs.
Safety is another. Crestor, while it may be great at lowering cholesterol, is a new drug and its safety is not as well established.
In its report, Best Buy Drugs in evaluating statins, Consumer Reports notes that different statins meet the needs of different patients. Factors to consider are your cholesterol levels, whether or not you have had a heart attack and cost. Talk to your doctor if you have any questions about statins.
Whether or not you're on statins, it's important that you incorporate healthy habits into your daily life. This means eat a heart-friendly diet, exercise and don't smoke cigarettes. You may just find you can reduce cholesterol without taking drugs.