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.
- 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kidney failure and then death, and it usually occurs when simvastatin combines with some other drugs, such as the now-withdrawn Cerivastatin.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.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for professional medical advice.