What are statins?

Statins are a type of medication used to lower cholesterol in the body. They are prescribed to people who are healthy but are at a high risk of heart disease. They are also used to reduce the risk of people who have had a stroke, heart attack or cardiovascular issues experiencing further problems.

Various clinical trials have also suggested that when used by people with no risk factors for heart disease, statins can still considerably lower the risk of developing heart problems in the future.

Can I buy statins?

The Online Clinic is prepared to prescribe statins if it is continuation of an existing therapy. We do not initiate patients on this category of medication. Please click on the Free Consultation icon to begin your no obligation consultation with a doctor.

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High Cholesterol

Our bodies naturally produce two types of cholesterol. The first is HDL cholesterol, known as the 'good cholesterol'. The second, LDL, is 'bad cholesterol', and high levels of it in the blood can cause fatty deposits to build up in the arteries. When fatty deposits build up, the blood can't travel to the heart and blood clots can develop, causing heart attacks and stroke.

Statins lower the levels of LDL cholesterol, meaning that the risk of fatty deposits (or atherosclerosis) developing is reduced.

How do statins work?

Scientifically statins are known as HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors. They block the action of HMG CoA Reductase enzyme in the liver which is responsible for making LDL cholesterol. Clinical trials into the statin, Crestor, have also shown that it increases levels of HDL cholesterol, though how this happens is unclear.

Statin Side Effects

As with all medications, statins can cause side effects but these are generally mild and easily reversible. These can include muscle pain, which generally stops after the patient stops taking the medication. The most common side effects are headaches, nausea, vomiting, constipation or diarrhea, rashes and weakness.

Very rarely, statins can cause liver failure or a condition called rhabdomyolysis. This is when there is damage to the muscles. It begins as muscle pain and can eventually progress to cause the muscle cells to die, resulting in kidney failure or death. This very rare side effect generally happens when statins are used in conjunction with other medications that themselves cause the condition or that raise the levels of statins in the blood. Patients who experience muscle pains should consult their doctor immediately.

Who shouldn't take Statins?

Statin use during pregnancy is not advised as it can cause serious adverse reactions in the foetus. They should also not be used by patients with liver problems, so your doctor will test your liver function before you begin treatment.

Statins can also interact with different types of medications, such as protease inhibitors (used to treat HIV), erythromycin, itraconazole, clarithromycin, dilitazem, verapamil, niacin and fibric acids.

Patients taking niacin and fibric acids are however sometimes prescribed statins but with caution.

How do you take statins?

You should take your medication at a regular time each day. As cholesterol is produced during the night, it is best to take them before you go to bed.

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Reviewed by: Dr Joyce Braaksma
GMC registration number: 4621289
Date: 21 March 2022
Next review: 22 March 2024
All UK registered doctors can have their registration checked on
The Medical Register at the GMC website.

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