Should I keep taking my cholesterol medicine?

Broken Arrow Family Drug blog

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  • 25 February 2013
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    Should I keep taking my cholesterol medicine?

    News reports during the past week have announced that the FDA is requiring more warnings for medications in the family of “statins”. Statins are used to lower cholesterol in those patients who are unable to manage their cholesterol levels with diet alone.

    There are many statins on the market, including Mevacor (lovastatin), Zocor (simvastatin), Lipitor (atorvastatin) and others. Drugs within this family have been on the market for more than a decade.

    So far, I haven’t seen any media actually publish the exact verbiage from the FDA announcement. I would suspect that none of those patients who have been scared about the announcements have read the FDA announcement either. So, as a service to you, here’s the link.

    If you don’t want to bother with reading a government-issued document (and who wouldn’t want to read one?), here are the facts about the FDA’s announcement.

    1. Regarding cognitive loss – the FDA reviewed several studies about memory loss or impairment. All of the studies said that the cognitive loss is reversible when you discontinue the medication, but the reports were “ill-defined”, the time when the dementia appeared was “highly variable”, and there was no association between the dementia and a specific drug, a person’s age, the dose of the statin, or whether or not the patient was taking other medications. In other words, some people had memory loss, but they couldn’t determine why or when it would happen.

    2. Regarding increased chances of diabetes – one of the studies cited said that taking statins increased your chances of diabetes by 9%. To put this in perspective, if your chances of developing diabetes were 10% to begin with, then your chance increases by 9% of 10% (or approximately another 1%). So, in this example, you would now have an 11% chance of developing diabetes when taking a statin, instead of the 10% chance if you didn’t take a statin.

    3. Not prominently mentioned in the media – the FDA is removing the requirement for routine monitoring of liver enzymes that they’ve been requiring for years. Turns out that risk of liver damage is “extremely rare”.

    Note that the FDA has clearly continued to state that statins are “safe and effective”.

    Todd’s take? Eat right, exercise, and if you still aren’t able to manage your cholesterol, statins are a good treatment option. If you’re already taking statins, watch for side effects just like you normally do. Don’t scare yourself out of taking a medication that can extend your life.

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