The ABCs of statin prescriptions

GEHA | February 17, 2020

high blood pressure
Statins are frequently prescribed to patients with high cholesterol.

If you have high cholesterol, your doctor may prescribe a type of drug called a statin. What do you need to know about this medication?

Overall, remember one thing: Never start and then stop taking any medicine without consulting your physician.

Why do I need to take a statin?                        

You may have high levels of cholesterol or other fats in your blood. Cholesterol can stick to the walls of your arteries, which narrows or blocks them.

Think of your arteries as a highway, your blood as traffic and cholesterol as orange construction barrels. Too much cholesterol can act as those large barrels and block the flow of your blood, resulting in heart disease, heart attack or stroke.

Statins work by slowing your body’s production of cholesterol, which can keep your arteries open and your blood moving more freely. This type of drug is often the first medical treatment to lower your cholesterol.  

Which statin is right for me?

Your doctor may prescribe one of many different brands of statin drugs, including less expensive or generic forms. Some common brand names include Lipitor, Lescol, Altoprev, Livalo, Pravachol, Crestor or Zocor.

A statin may also be prescribed along with other medicines to manage another condition such as high blood pressure. Read the label and the information that accompanies your prescription carefully. Some brands should be taken only at night or with food. If you have questions, consult your pharmacist.

What do I need to talk about with my physician?

Give your health care provider a list of all other medications, supplements, herbs or vitamins you’re taking. And tell your doctor if you start taking any new medicine, whether or not it’s distributed over the counter or with a prescription.

Before you start taking statins, tell your provider if:

  • You are pregnant, plan to become pregnant or are breastfeeding
  • You have allergies
  • You have diabetes
  • You have any sort of acute or chronic liver disease

What happens once I take this drug?

  • Muscle or joint aches
  • Diarrhea or gas
  • Nausea or upset stomach
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Headache

    Call your doctor right away if you have any of the following:

  • Severe muscle problems
  • Weakness
  • Fever
  • Dark urine

Your provider might schedule regular blood tests to measure how well the statin is working and monitor for any side effects.

When you first start taking a statin, you may experience mild side effects including:

If a side effect persists, let your doctor know. There may be another, more comfortable option for you.

Never start -- and then stop -- taking any medication without consulting your physician.


Sources:
“How to Take Statins.” nih.gov, National Institutes of Health, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 24 January 2020.

“Controlling Cholesterol with Statins.” fda.gov, U.S. Food & Drug Administration, 16 February 2017