Statins are modern drugs that belong among the most commonly prescribed medications in internal medicine. Statins belong to hypolipidemic agents, i.e. drugs aimed to decrease serum concentration of cholesterol and other fats.
The active substances of statins can block the production of cholesterol in our organism. To be more precise, they block enzyme called HMG-CoA reductase, which is a key enzyme in cholesterol formation. The statins have a complex effect on the metabolism of fats - they decrease the serum level of "bad" LDL cholesterol and increase the level of "good" HDL cholesterol. Statins also decrease the serum level of other non-cholesterol fats (triglycerides).
Generally speaking, statins are used to treat high cholesterol. This condition is usually associated with lack of exercise and unhealthy diet. However, high cholesterol may be also related to a congenital metabolic disorder, probably the most known is familial hypercholesterolemia. Statins are also used in many diseases associated with narrowed arteries due to atherosclerosis. These situations include peripheral vascular disease, ischemic heart disease (angina pectoris, condition after heart attack), prevention of ischemic stroke and others.
There many statins, the most commonly used drugs usually contain any of these substances - atorvastatin, rosuvastatin, simvastatin and fluvastatin.
Very popular are combined preparations of a statin with ezetimibe. Statins can reduce the formation of cholesterol in the body, but the organism is able to react by increased absorption of cholesterol from the large intestine. Ezetimibe is a substance, which blocks cholesterol absorption from the guts. Such combined drugs have significantly better effect.
Statins are relatively well tolerated, usually causing only non-specific digestive disorders (anorexia, abdominal discomfort, flatulence, etc.). Less frequent side-effects include elevation of liver tests and muscle pain. The muscle damage may very rarely cause so-called rhabdomyolysis, which is a breakdown of muscle fibers. Therefore, patient with newly occurred muscle pain, who takes statins, should be examined by a doctor and when the muscle damage is confirmed, the statins should be discontinued.