Monday, June 6, 2011

The Potential Dangers of Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs

In recent years, the prescription of statin drugs to reduce cholesterol has soared through the roof.  You've heard of them:  Lipitor (atorvastatin), Crestor (rosuvastatin), Zocor (simvastatin), and the like. The supposed benefits of these drugs, as your doctor will tell you, is that they'll reduce your cholesterol levels, hence lowering your risk of heart disease.  I'm sure you all know by now how I feel about lowering cholesterol levels (see this)... but that's beside the point in today's discussion.  I will just say that statin drugs' effectiveness may have been a bit overstated.  Today, though, I'd like to focus on the dangers, or side effects, one may encounter in taking statins.

First, just a little information about how statin drugs work in the body.  Their main function is to block an enzyme called HMG CoA Reductase.  This is one of the enzymes that is involved in making cholesterol in the liver.  So through blocking this pathway, the drug has inhibited the body's ability to make cholesterol molecules.  As a result, your blood cholesterol level goes down, your doctor is happy, and you're happy.  We've finally won the battle against cholesterol!  Yeah... except cholesterol is needed in the body for all sorts of vital processes, like hormone production, vitamin D synthesis, cell membrane structure, and brain function, just to name a few.  Hopefully by the end of this, you'll realize how ridiculous it is to think that blocking an important biochemical pathway like this one is a good idea.