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Drug Used for the Treatment of High Cholesterol

Drug Used for the Treatment of High Cholesterol

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Simvastatin is a hypolipidemic drug, meaning that it reduces the level of lipids in the blood by up to 50 percent. Its most common use is the treatment of hypercholesterolemia, commonly known as high cholesterol. Simvastatin belongs to the statin class of drugs, which includes many other drugs that treat high cholesterol. This drug is primarily sold under the name Zocor in the United States and it is also available in generic form.


The primary benefit of lowering your cholesterol level is the reduction in your risk of heart disease. Physicians should recommend simvastatin only after other traditional measures to lower cholesterol have failed. These measures include weight loss, diet and exercise.

Side Effects

Common side effects of simvastatin are those effects that occur in more than one percent of cases. These include the following:

Abdominal cramps



Muscle weakness

Rare side effects of simvastatin that occur in less than one percent of cases include the following:

Joint pain

Memory loss

Muscle cramps



Researchers may have identified the genes that make individuals prone to muscle weakness when taking simvastatin. A 2008 study of 32,000 subjects concluded that one particular allele increases the risk of muscle weakness from simvastatin by a factor of 16. Another allele increases this risk by a factor of five.


The doses of simvastatin range from 5 mg to 80 mg. A double-blind controlled study conducted in 2010 showed that patients taking 80 mg per day had 1.2 percent fewer major cardiovascular events than those taking 20 mg per day. The Food and Drug Administration recommends the maximum dosage of 80 mg only for those patients who have been taking this dosage for at least a year without muscle weakness. Dosages up to 160 mg have been used in clinical trials, but this level of simvastatin provides only limited additional benefits with a high rate of side effects.

Brand Names

Merck and Co. markets simvastatin under the brand names Zocor and Zocor Heart Pro. This company also sells a combination of simvastatin and ezetimibe under the brand name Vytorin. Brand names for simvastatin in Australia include Simvahexal, Lipex and Zimstat. Simvastatin is also sold as Simcard, Simlup and Simvotin in India. European brand names for simvastatin include Denan, Liponorm, Sinvacor, Sivastin and Zocord.


Many other statins are available for the treatment of high cholesterol. The best-selling drug of this type is atorvastatin, which is sold under the brand names Lipitor and Torvast. Atorvastatin is the best-selling drug in history with sales of $12.4 billion in 2008. Additional statins currently on the market include fluvastatin, which is sold as Lescol. Lovastatin is sold as Altocor, Altoprev and Mevacor. The brand names for pitavastatin include Livalo and Pitava. Pravastatin is sold as Pravachol, Lipostat and Selektine, and rosuvastatin is sold as Crestor.

By Russell John Clarke

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