lovastatin vs. simvastatin

  • Medical Editor: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
    John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

    John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

    John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.

lovastatin vs. simvastatin comparison

Both lovastatin (Mevacor, Altoprev) and simvastatin (Zocor) are members of the statin family of cholesterol-lowering drugs. Statins revolutionized the treatment and prevention of a host of cardiovascular diseases including coronary artery disease and other cholesterol-related problems that cause debilitating and fatal heart attacks and strokes.

Lovastatin and simvastatin are chemically similar. The central difference between these two statins is that simvastatin tends to be more effective at lowering the targeted bloodstream cholesterol levels. Doctors may keep lovastatin in reserve for drug combinations or if a patient has an undesirable reaction to a typically more potent statin.

Side effects for each medication are nearly identical. They include:

Both Mevacor and Zocor react badly with the same drugs, including blood thinners like warfarin (Coumadin).

Another difference between lovastatin and simvastatin is that lovastatin works better when you take it with food, whereas if you take simvastatin, it makes no difference when you eat.

What are lovastatin and simvastatin?

Lovastatin and simvastatin are both members of the class of drugs called statins, which also includes:

Statins work to lower cholesterol in the bloodstream, which is in the form of low-density lipoproteins (LDL). LDL is what doctors are talking about when they say "bad cholesterol."

Cholesterol is vital to your body's functions, performing tasks as diverse as providing cell structure, lining nerves, and aiding digestive processes, among many others. A healthy person's body can easily balance cholesterol levels, and healthy liver is capable of making all the body's necessary cholesterol from simpler fat molecules. Foods also contain cholesterol, however. If your diet is poor and/or you have a genetic predisposition, this extra cholesterol courses through your bloodstream in the form of LDL molecules. Over time, these bits of LDL accumulate in arteries, constricting the blood flow. Often, this leads to catastrophic effects such as debilitating or fatal heart attacks and strokes.

Statins like Mevacor and Zocor bind with a cholesterol precursor chemical called hydroxymethylglutaryl-coenzyme A reductase or HMG-CoA (statins are also called HMG-CoA inhibitors). HMG-CoA is one step in the process the liver cells use to manufacture cholesterol from simpler molecules. Statins throw a wrench in the works of the liver's cholesterol-making process by preventing HMG-CoA from turning into cholesterol. This forces the body's cholesterol balancing impulse to kick in, meaning the liver cells absorb more LDL from the blood stream, meaning less of it is floating around to add to plaque deposits.

Lovastatin and simvastatin also raise levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), the so-called "good cholesterol." HDL is beneficial because it acts like a scavenger, capturing LDL molecules and taking them to the liver for processing. Researchers don't understand how statins raise bloodstream HDL as well as they understand how the drugs lower bloodstream LDL.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/9/2017
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