Thursday, June 9, 2011

Simvastatin will kill me?

NHPR got my attention this morning when it ran a piece about the FDA bashing the anti cholesterol drug Simvastatin. I happen to be on Simvastatin, so that story struck right home. The FDA spokeman was strongly against use of Simvastatin and said it should have been taken off the market years ago. There are many other drugs that are better. Well, yes there are, namely Lipitor. Trouble is, Lipitor costs $3 a pill, Simvastatin costs $0.13 a pill at Walmart.
So I googled to find out what is going on. FDA ran a big study, 6000 people using the big 80 mg dose of Simvastatin and 6000 people using the smaller 20 mg dose. Less than 1 percent of the 80 Mg users came down with a rare muscle ailment that I never heard of. Less than 0.1 percent of users of the smaller 20 mg dose suffered from the same ailment. Well, that's statistically significant. The FDA gave no information linking the difference in risk to the drug, as opposed to underlying conditions in the patient. Patients taking the 80mg dose are doing it 'cause their cholesterol counts were higher and needed a stronger dose of Simvastatin to control it. Could be that patients with higher cholesterol counts are more vulnerable to the rare muscle ailment, but we will ignore that.
Checking my medicine cabinet I find I'm taking the 40 mg dose, not the 80 mg dose, so I'm OK there. Plus, rare muscle ailment usually strikes within a year of starting Simvastatin and I've been on it for longer than that.

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