Last updated: Apr 19, 2008
How statins work
Statins lower cholesterol in two ways: They encourage the liver to clear LDL (bad cholesterol) from the blood, and they block an enzyme that the body needs to make new cholesterol.
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Statin side effects and risks
Statins generally don't cause many side effects, but potentially the most common problem is muscle pain, stiffness, or weakness, which affects about 1% of study subjects but many more patients in the real world, because study subjects are carefully screened, says Eliot Brinton, MD, a preventive cardiologist and lipidologist at the University of Utah School of Medicine. Other side effects can include tiredness, bloating, constipation, and leg and abdominal pain. More serious side effectsincluding liver damageare rare. Roughly one out of six million patients taking Lipitor has a fatal reaction. "Walking down to the store to get the drug is more dangerous than taking it," Allison says.