We’ve all seen the TV ads about Vytorin, Lipitor and Crestor. These medications belong to a certain class of drugs better known as statins. So, what’s all the hoopla about? Statins have been shown to be effective in lowering the body’s cholesterol levels by blocking the enzyme HMG-CoA reductase in the liver. The blockage of this particular enzyme causes the liver to produce less cholesterol.
Further studies have shown that statins not only reduce bad cholesterol (LDL or low-density lipoprotein), but also raise good cholesterol (HDL or high-density lipoprotein). While all this sounds great so far, there are certain other facts you need to know before taking any of these types of medications. For instance, how do we know which statin is best for us as individuals, and what side effects are involved?
Vytorin or simvastatin is a combination of the drugs Zetia and Zocor. Pregnant women or women who are nursing should avoid taking Vytorin because it has been shown to cause birth defects. If a woman becomes pregnant during treatment, she should immediately notify her doctor. For best results, women who have started taking Vytorin should use some form of birth control.
You should avoid taking Vytorin if you have any of the following conditions: liver and/or kidney disease; diabetes; and an underactive thyroid; or if you are also using steroids or hormones.
Side effects related to the use of Vytorin include: kidney failure (in rare instances); joint pain or weakness; digestive problems (nausea, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, irregularity, and diarrhea); head problems (headache, dizziness, memory loss, blurred vision); cold and/or flu-like symptoms (cough, fever, sore throat, stuffy and/or runny nose); insomnia; and numbness or tingling.
Additionally, Vytorin may interact with other drugs such as Tricor; Nicolar; Coumadin (a type of blood thinner); and HIV medications. Patients should also use caution when taking other cholesterol-reducing drugs (Prevalite, Colestid, and Welchol); as well as patients who are taking antibiotics (Biaxin, Nizoral, and Sporanox). Vytorin has also been shown to produce dangerous side effects when it interacts with grapefruit or grapefruit juice.
Lipitor or atorvastatin has proven effective in the prevention of strokes, heart attacks, and the risk of heart complications in people with vascular or heart disease. As with Vytorin, pregnant and nursing women should avoid taking Lipitor. Also, similar to Vytorin, patients exhibiting the following medical conditions should avoid taking Lipitor (diabetes, muscle weakness or joint pain, underactive thyroid, and kidney and/or liver disease).
Side effects associated with Lipitor include: kidney failure (in rare instances); digestive disorders (nausea, bloating, abdominal pain, heartburn, irregularity, flatulence); head issues (headache and stuffy nose); and skin problems (rash and itching).
Additionally, Lipitor may interact with the following other drugs: Lanoxin; Lopid; Tricor; Nicolar; steroids; cancer medications; and drugs used to treat HIV. Patients taking Lipitor should avoid drinking alcohol, as this may lead to liver damage. As with Vytorin, patients should also avoid consuming grapefruit or grapefruit juice while taking Lipitor, to prevent the dangerous side effects related to their interaction.
Crestor or rosuvastatin, has been proven to reduce arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries, due to plaque build-up). As with Vytorin and Lipitor, pregnant and nursing women should not take Crestor. Similar to Vytorin and Lipitor, persons with kidney and/or liver disease, underactive thyroid and joint disorders, also should avoid taking Crestor. Other medical conditions that should preclude taking Crestor include: seizure disorders (such as epilepsy); imbalance in potassium levels; severe infections or illnesses; and recent surgeries.
Relative side effects to Crestor include: kidney failure (infrequently); digestive disorders (nausea, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, irregularity or diarrhea); head disorders (headaches, dizziness, memory loss); chest pain; and swollen hands and feet.
Additionally, Crestor may interact with the following other drugs: Nizoral; Kaletra; Nicolar; blood thinners such as Coumadin; and other cholesterol-reducing drugs such as Tricor and Lopid. As with Lipitor, patients taking Crestor should avoid alcohol consumption to prevent liver damage. Also, patients taking antacids should be careful to take them at least two hours after taking Crestor.
Directions for use:
Physicians suggest patients take Vytorin once every evening with or without the intake of food. Lipitor and Crestor may be taken any time of day, as long as they are taken around the same time every day. Doctors recommend taking Lipitor and Crestor once daily with an 8 oz glass of water. It should be noted that Asian people may absorb Crestor more quickly than other nationalities, so they may need a lower dosage of this statin.
As with all medications, patients should always take their prescribed statin only as instructed by their doctors. In addition, they should tell their doctors if they are allergic to certain medications, as well as inform them of all the other medications they are taking.
Statins such as Vytorin, Lipitor and Crestor have proven to be effective cholesterol-reducing agents. However, patients must be careful to take them only as directed by their physician and/or pharmacist. It is very important that patients read the labels carefully and consult with their physicians and/or pharmacists if they have any questions.
Certain medical conditions may preclude taking any of these statins. Patients should frequently be monitored by their doctors and receive regular blood tests to ensure the continued effectiveness of the statin, as well as to prevent harmful side effects. It is recommended that patients inform their doctors right away if they experience any potentially dangerous side effects.
Always consult with your physician before you stop taking any medications. All three statins tend to have similar side effects, so only a careful examination and consultation from your prescribing physician can determine which statin is right for you as an individual. A patient’s insurance coverage may play be a determining factor in deciding which statin best suits his or her needs.
Statins alone are not enough to ensure cholesterol-reducing effects. For best results they should be combined with a low-fat diet and the proper amount of exercise.