Cholesterol-lowering medications known as statins are among the top sellers and money makers for pharmaceutical companies with an estimated 25 million people using them across the globe. But recently more and more concerns have been raised about the drugs’ side effects and on Friday, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the FDA is examining the issue.
An FDA spokeswoman told The Inquirer “the topic is under active review within the agency.” Moreover, the newspaper said that the FDA has directed the manufacturers of six statin brands currently on the market to change the drugs’ labels to include “memory impairment” or “memory loss” to the lists of potential side effects such as muscle aches and in rare instances liver damage.
The Inquirer quoted an e-mailed response from a spokesman for pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, the maker of Lipitor, which is the world’s top selling drug with $11.8 billion in sales in 2010. That spokesman also noted that the National Lipid Association’s Statin Safety Task Force conducted a review and concluded “there is practically no evidence to support a link with statin therapy” and dementia and cognitive impairment.
Still, concerns about adverse side effects of statins have led many people to seek alternative approaches to lowering their cholesterol. For some, those include supplements such as red yeast rice and others with no known impact on cholesterol levels.
Most doctors, including David H. Wiener, MD, director of clinical operations for the Jefferson Heart Institute, will work with patients to lower their cholesterol levels through lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise.
If you fix your diet – reduce the amount of saturated fats you consume, increase your fiber intake to between 5 grams and 10 grams a day and make other heart-healthy food choices – you can reduce your cholesterol level by 15 percent to 20 percent, Dr. Wiener explained.
Read “How to Lower Your Cholesterol Levels Without Medications” in the February issue of the Keep In Touch with Jefferson newsletter. High cholesterol increases your risk of heart disease. Learn more about how to lower your risk.