If you have elevated levels of cholesterol, it is possible your doctor may have prescribed the drug simvastatin. However, as it is frequently the case with allopathic drugs, there are few side effects of simvastatin, which have to be kept in mind. The following article attempts to shed some light on them.
Simvastatin is a drug that helps in lowering cholesterol, usually prescribed after all traditional methods such as, exercise, diet control and weight loss have failed. It is a common drug used in the treatment of cardiovascular disease, and belongs to a class of drugs known for inhibiting an enzyme called HMG-CoA reductase, responsible for the production of cholesterol. Drugs like Atorvastatin and Fluvastatin also belong to this class of inhibitors and are collectively known as statins. These statins also reduce Low-density Lipoprotein (LDL) or bad cholesterol in the blood and help in lowering triglycerides. They increase the amount of High-density Lipoprotein (HDL) or the good cholesterol, lowering the chances of a heart attack.
Negative Effects of Simvastatin
To start off, people susceptible to side effects from the regular usage of simvastatin often belong to one of the following categories:
- Pregnant women, and breast-feeding mothers.
- People suffering from kidney trouble.
- If you are on other prescription medicines.
Simvastatin is strictly a prescription-only drug and should not be consumed without consulting a medical practitioner. The doses are between 5 to 80 mg/day, taken preferably in the evening. Lipitor (Atorvastatin) is another drug often prescribed for reducing high levels of LDL. In comparison with simvastatin, it has been found to have fewer side effects and is often prescribed these days. Simvastatin begins to manifest negative effects when taken for a long duration of time, as in the case of patients suffering from heart disease. However, dose adjustments can be made at weekly intervals, but only after a check-up and consultation with your physician. The change in doses are often responsible for side-effects in some people. The FDA, taking note of the negative effects of the drug issued new safety guidelines on 8th August 2011, amid concerns of muscle injury and again in March 2012, with regard to liver damage, memory loss and Type 2 diabetes. Some of the common side-effects of chronic usage of simvastatin are:
- Muscle Pain: One of the common side-effects observed muscle pain may be experienced as soreness, tiredness and weakness in the limbs. Initially, the pain can be mild but can aggravate if left unchecked, and may interfere with daily activities like walking and climbing. In rare cases, statins have caused life-threatening muscle damage known as Rhabdomyolysis. This disorder can cause liver damage, kidney failure and then death, and it usually occurs when simvastatin combines with some other drugs, such as the now-withdrawn Cerivastatin.
- Liver Damage: Simvastatin can sometimes increase production of liver enzymes. If the increase is insignificant, continuing the drug doesn’t pose a risk, however, if there is a sudden increase in enzyme production, consumption of simvastatin should be discontinued immediately. Alcohol also increases the formation of cholesterol in the blood and regular consumption of alcohol is usually forbidden for patients taking the drug. A combination of alcohol and simvastatin can lead to alcohol poisoning, causing liver damage and eventually liver failure.
- Effects on Digestion: Although digestion is not a major side-effect, nausea, diarrhea or constipation have been observed in individuals. Fluids are generally recommended to help break down the medicine in the body and help it enter the blood stream. One must however, stay away from grapefruit juice as it inhibits the action of statins and they build up in the body over time, causing liver damage.
- Hair Loss: As simvastatin lowers blood cholesterol by up to 50%, another observed side-effect of the drug is hair-loss. This is due to the fact that LDL obstructs the flow of blood to the hair follicles just as it does to the arteries of the heart. Also, the subcutaneous glands inside the follicle tend to solidify, weakening the hair roots. Once anti-cholesterol drugs like simvastatin reduce cholesterol, the already weakened follicles begin to break and fall out.
- Memory Loss: The FDA has mentioned memory loss as one of the side effects of the drug, however, it is not permanent and is restored after discontinuing use.
- Type 2 diabetes: The FDA also warns of increase in blood sugar levels and people already suffering from Type 2 diabetes may also find elevated blood sugar readings. The FDA has mandated a label change for certain manufacturers to include the diabetes warning.
- Other effects: Some other side-effects have been noticed in people using simvastatin such as, depression, joint pain and in some cases, infections of the upper respiratory tract.
Although simvastatin is a useful drug recommended by many doctors, one should not ignore its side effects.If you observe any side-effects, consult your doctor at once.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for professional medical advice.