August 7, 2011

Generic Lipitor set to be Available in November!

Posted in Heart Disease in the News tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 10:32 am by keepyourhearthealthy

A package and pill of atorvastatin 40mg (Lipitor).

Image via Wikipedia

Lipitor’s 26-year reign over the statin brand-name market may soon come to an end when it’s generic equivalent starts selling in November.

Cardiologists and primary care physicians all throughout the country have long awaited a cheaper version of the “biggest selling drug of all time.”  According to the Wall Street Journal’s Health Blog, Lipitor will be sold in a generic version by a company called Ranbaxy starting November 30, 2011.  Lipitor’s manufacturer, Pfizer, has been able to put off the production of a generic by continually extending it’s patent for Lipitor.  They found new indications for the drug which allowed for more and more patent extensions.  Not to mention they have put plenty of money and effort in the legal battle over the rights to produce a generic.  There is even some talk now about Pfizer legally trying to make Lipitor over-the-counter (highly unlikely!).

Lipitor, generic name atorvastatin, was originally used for treating high cholesterol.  It inhibits a liver enzyme which usually signals production of more cholesterol for the body.  Over time, it was found to prevent cardiovascular disease including heart attack and stroke.  It is now also indicated for preventing heart attacks in people who already have heart disease.  Regardless of cholesterol numbers, patients who have a heart attack will be placed on a statin like Lipitor as a means of preventing a second heart attack.

Other statin generics have been available for years now.  Zocor’s generic (simvastatin) and Pravachol’s generic (pravastatin) have become very popular alternatives to Lipitor since they are much more affordable.  Most physicians will tell you that these alternatives are just not as effective for reducing cholesterol compared to Lipitor or the just-as-expensive brand name Crestor.  Clearly it is effectiveness that has kept Lipitor a top-selling drug in recent years.  In this time of economic stress though, many uninsured people have had no choice but to make the switch to the cheaper statins.  They simply cannot afford out-of-pocket Lipitor at $100 a month while simvastatin is only $15 a month and pravastatin is only $4 a month!

With this new generic Lipitor, atorvastatin could become just as cheap as the other generic statins.  Hopefully it will still maintain it’s effectiveness as well.  Ranbaxy will be the sole manufacturer of atorvastatin for the first 6 months which may mean continued higher pricing.  Once other manufacturers join in on the competition, we should see a very affordable generic for Lipitor emerge!

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December 13, 2010

Muscle Cramps May Continue For Years After Stopping Cholesterol Medicine in Some Patients

Posted in New Heart Studies tagged , , , , , , , , at 8:06 pm by keepyourhearthealthy

photo by graur razvan ionut

A new study has identified the reason why some patients have severe muscle cramps with statins.

Approximately 5% of patients who take statins find themselves weak and achy all over within a few days to several months after starting the medicine.  Statins such as Lipitor, Zocor, Crestor, simvastatin, pravastatin and lovastatin are used to treat high cholesterol.  They are also frequently given to anyone with blockages in their arteries.

When muscle aches develop in a person taking cholesterol medicine, the first step is to stop the medicine and try something else.   Usually the aches and pains go away within a few weeks.  Unfortunately, some people continue to have symptoms for even a year after quitting the medicine! This new study that was just reported shows why these unlucky people have worse symptoms than everyone else.  Some of them have been found to make antibodies against a substance called HMG-CoA.  Muscle that is injured tends to have more HMG-CoA therefore more muscle damage occurs in people with antibodies against it.

It sounds like the cycle might go something like this:

  1. a person begins taking a statin drug to lower cholesterol
  2. statin increases HMG-CoA in the body
  3. antibodies attack and injure the muscles with high HMG-CoA
  4. statin is stopped but injured muscles continue to have high HMG-CoA
  5. antibodies continuously attack the muscles

The cycle does not stop until immunosuppressive drugs are given to tell the body to stop attacking itself.  You might say that in these small, select cases people develop an autoimmune disease only after receiving statin medicines.  This study has become a very important step in the process of avoiding these terrible reactions altogether in the future.  Labs might eventually be able to test people  for the HMG-CoA antibody before they are given a statin so everyone would be able to rest easy in the decision to treat high cholesterol with or without statins.

November 10, 2010

How Low Should Your LDL Go?

Posted in New Heart Studies tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , at 12:56 am by keepyourhearthealthy

An example of a heart attack, which can occur ...

Image via Wikipedia

Over the past 10 to 20 years, there has been much debate over how low a person’s cholesterol should go.  The latest study is suggesting we should go even lower than the lowest recommended number so we can prevent more heart attacks.

Several years ago, the guidelines for cholesterol treatment in patients with heart disease changed.  For quite some time, the recommendation had been to treat LDL to less than 100.  The guidelines were then changed to allow cardiologists the “option” of more aggressive treatment to less than 70.  Many studies have proven that higher doses of statins results in lower LDL and fewer heart attacks.

Researchers in the UK and Australia say that we should now consider lowering LDL to less than 50 based on their new research.  They reviewed 26 different trials and found a 22% risk reduction in major vascular events (ie. heart attacks and strokes) when patients were given high dose statins and treated to lower LDL numbers.  Their report also showed that lowering LDL to less than 50 was safe for people at high risk of cardiovascular events.

One of the other points the researchers discussed in their report includes which statins are best to use.  Predictably, the more expensive statins are the most potent such as Lipitor and Crestor (hence, you get what you pay for!).  The researchers discourage the use of the weak statins such as Pravachol (pravastatin) or Zocor (simvastatin).  They did mention that Zocor and Pravachol might be used together for better results but most cardiologists shy away from prescribing 2 statins at the same time.  This method is highly unlikely to happen anytime soon.

Overall, this study brings up the question one more time of how low we should be treating LDL in heart patients.

In some cardiology practices, they may be very conservative in their use of potent statins.  These types of cardiologists will probably resist any changes to the current guidelines.  Other cardiology practices may welcome a lower LDL target so they can give more appropriate, potent statin therapy to the patients at greatest risk.  Patients in general do not like increases in statins due to the possible side effect of muscle aches.  However, if more patients understand the significant benefits of drugs like Lipitor and Zocor they are more likely to tolerate the changes.  It will be interesting to see what, if any, changes this new study will bring about in the near future.

November 9, 2010

Is There a Benefit in Loading Up on Lipitor Before Bypass

Posted in New Heart Studies tagged , , , , , , , , at 12:42 am by keepyourhearthealthy

A package and pill of atorvastatin 40mg (Lipitor).

Image via Wikipedia

A new study says that people are less likely to have a heart attack if they are given high dose statins before surgery.

This new study looked at other previous studies and pulled together a pool of over 4,000 patients.  When reviewing the medicines, people who took a statin drug (used for lowering cholesterol) had significantly fewer heart attacks after their surgery.  Examples of statins include Lipitor, Zocor, simvastatin, pravastatin and lovastatin.  A statin drug is used for people with heart disease regardless of cholesterol because they significantly lower the risk of heart-related deaths.  Some scientists have suggested that statins help to reduce inflammation in addition to preventing the liver from making more cholesterol.

Based on this new study, further research may be done to see if patients should be given higher doses of statins prior to surgery.  Currently, beta-blockers are recommended peri-operatively for people at high risk of heart complications.  If the studies continue to show benefits for statins as well, a drug like Lipitor may be added to those surgical recommendations in the future!

May 19, 2010

Statins May Also Help To Thin The Blood

Posted in Heart Disease in the News, Heart disease tips, New Heart Studies, Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , , at 5:33 pm by keepyourhearthealthy

People with heart disease should already know the huge importance of taking a statin drug (Liptior, Zocor, Crestor, simvastatin, etc.).  Statins are prescribed to nearly everyone with heart disease because they significantly reduce the chance of future heart attacks.  Statins are also used for reducing high cholesterol and lowering the chances of stroke.  A new study has now shown that statins also lower a person’s risk for serious clotting problems such as Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) and Pulmonary Embolism.  DVT’s can be relatively benign since they are merely a blood clot in a vein in the leg.  However, the clot may dislodge and travel to the lungs leading to a possibly fatal Pulmonary Embolism.  A clot in the lungs prevents oxygen exchange from the lungs into the blood system.  10% of patients with this problem die within an hour and 30% more die later from recurrence.

The fact that statins reduce the risk of these 2 additional problems suggests that these popular drugs may help to keep the blood from clotting.  So, not only do they lower cholesterol and reduce your chances of heart attack and stroke but they also help to keep your blood from forming deadly clots in the lungs!