Atorvastatin, marketed under the trade name Lipitor, is used for lowering cholesterol. Atorvastatin inhibits the enzyme located in hepatic tissue that produces mevalonate, a small molecule used in the synthesis of cholesterol. This lowers the amount of cholesterol produced which in turn lowers the total amount of LDL (low density) cholesterol. In 2005, Lipitor sales totaled $12.2 billion, making it the largest selling drug in the world at the time.
Atorvastatin is indicated as an adjunct to diet for the treatment of hypercholesterolaemia. In a clinical trial, after 2 years, a relative risk reduction of 16% in the primary end point rate (death, heart attack, unstable angina, coronary revascularization, or stroke) was seen in patients receiving intensive treatment with the drug. The benefit of intensive treatment was apparent, in some instances, within 30 days.
If you have high cholesterol, chances are your physician has already talked to you about Lipitor. Doctors like to prescribe it because it works quickly and easily. However, you need to understand the risk consequences associated with taking these sorts of drugs, because there is a potential for dangerous and sometimes permanent side effects. Some patients have suffered severe health consequences and were not adequately forewarned by their doctors.
Some of the more well known side effects associated with drugs known as statins (statins is the scientific classification for drugs such as Lipitor) include liver damage, sexual dysfunction, and peripheral neuropathy. But there have been other studies that have revealed other subtle problems that develop within the patient, which can have huge ramifications for the health of that patient later in life.
In a study performed by Finnish doctors, doctors assessed the effects of the statin drug Zocor on 120 men ages 35 to 64. All of the men had high cholesterol levels, ranging from 232 to 309. One group of men was told to maintain their current diet, while the other group was required to reduce their daily intake of saturated fat to less than 10 percent of total daily calories, and to keep their daily cholesterol consumption below 250 mg.
Then, each of the 2 groups was divided into 2 subgroups. One subgroup would take 20 mg of Zocor per day, while the other group received a placebo. This was continued for 12 weeks, at which point each subgroup switched so that the subgroup that had been receiving the placebo would receive the Zocor for the next 12 weeks, and vice versa. At the beginning of the clinical trial, and after the first 12 weeks, as well as at the end of the second 12 weeks, the cholesterol, blood pressure, insulin, and weight of each patient were measured.
The Zocor clearly worked, because it decreased cholesterol levels by 20.8 percent, while diet alone only decreased cholesterol by 7.6 percent. However, there was an astonishing finding. It was discovered that the drug increased fasting serum insulin levels by 13 percent, and decreased serum concentrations of important antioxidant vitamins by as much as 22 percent. This was a huge revelation.
Decreased insulin sensitivity can lead to a whole host of problems down the road, such as blindness, diabetes, and kidney disease. And antioxidants protect us from a whole host of problems, such as organic brain disease, cancer, and atherosclerosis. So, even though these cholesterol drugs perform a valuable function (lowering cholesterol), they can cause a whole range of other problems and diseases that can make a patient severely ill later in life.
So, you should think long and hard before using cholesterol-lowering drugs. The aforementioned side effects may not be equally severe in all people who take the medication. However, you might be better off working closely with your doctor to develop a program of diet and exercise before using drugs like Zocor or Lipitor to lower your cholesterol.