Statins have become a popular choice for doctors when they want to prescribe medication for cholesterol control. Two of the most popular brands of statins are Zocor and Lipitor. Both of these belong in a class of drugs that are very effective in lowering cholesterol, but they do come with a price – side effects. Many patients, as well as doctors, seriously contemplate the benefits and downfalls of Zocor vs. Lipitor when choosing a drug that may help lower the risk of heart attack. The FDA has now weighed in and has issued a statement that may make most people lean towards Lipitor:
The Food and Drug Administration is recommending that the use of drugs containing 80 mg of simvastatin—the highest approved dose of the popular cholesterol-lowering statin—be sharply curtailed because of the risk of muscle injury.
How do statins work?
The liver produces cholesterol with the help of an enzyme called HMG-CoA reductase. Overall, cholesterol is not bad for the body. In fact, your body needs it to build hormones, fat, and other components that make the body. Having too much cholesterol, though, can lead to plaque buildup in the walls of your arteries. This can then lead to a heart attack or stroke. Therefore, you want to maintain just the right level of cholesterol.
This is where statins come in. These drugs are able to block that enzyme in the liver that is needed to create cholesterol. With the enzyme being blocked, less cholesterol is produced and you can lower your level of cholesterol to a healthier number. Due to the enzyme blocking property, statins are referred to as HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors.
In general, statins are able to reduce your LDLs (bad cholesterol) while raising the number of HDLs (good cholesterol). They are very effective, but there are side effects to watch out for.
Many of the side effects associated with statins such as Lipitor and Zocor are fairly minimal. Some common side effects include upset stomach, low blood pressure, headache, fatigue, dizziness, blurred vision, and an allergic rash. Most of these commonly only show up during the first few days or weeks of taking the drug while your body gets used to the new medication.
However, as the FDA notice brings up, there are more serious side effects to consider. One of the most serious includes a condition called myopathy. Myopathy is a general term used for when muscle fibers are not able to function properly. This can lead to muscle weakness and pain. Even worse is a form of myopathy called rhabdomyolysis. This condition is where so much muscle tissue is broken down that the waste cells clog the kidneys, which can lead to kidney failure. While this is possible with any of the statins available, the new FDA recommendation points out that high dosage of Zocor, or the generic version called simvastatin, provides a higher risk of rhabdomyolysis than other statins, such as Lipitor (generic name is atorvastatin).
Zocor Vs. Lipitor
While both of these drugs are effective in controlling cholesterol by lowering LDL numbers and increasing HDL numbers, the new FDA recommendation makes Lipitor the more obvious choice, as pointed out in HealthDay by Dr. Gregg C. Fonarow.
Fortunately, there are other statins available which lower LDL (bad) cholesterol to a similar or greater degree, but at a lower risk of muscle injury. These include Lipitor (atorvastatin) and Crestor (rosuvastatin).
It seems that when considering Zocor vs. Lipitor the current consensus now would fall on Lipitor. However, discuss your options with your doctor. There may be other options, such as learning how to reduce cholesterol through diet.