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Dec 13, 2011

Statins: Atorvastatin vs. Rosuvastatin

Study shows both cholesterol-lowering drugs are equally safe and effective.

A recent study published by the New England Journal of Medicine pitted two of the top statins against each other to see which is more effective — atorvastatin (Lipitor) or rosuvastatin (Crestor). Both drugs work in the same way, helping to block a chemical necessary for making cholesterol. In turn, they help lower cholesterol, reduce risk for cardiac events and slow the progression of heart disease. And although they are the most effective drugs in lowering low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, researchers wondered if one drug would perform better in reversing plaque build-up and reducing cardiac event rates.

Over 1,000 patients with heart disease participated in this study — half of whom took the maximum daily dose of atorvastatin (80 mg) while the other half were prescribed the maximum daily dose of rosuvastatin (40 mg). After following participants for more than two years, researchers found that rosuvastatin was more effective in lowering “bad cholesterol” and raising “good cholesterol.” However, maximal doses of both drugs were equally effective in helping to reverse heart disease by clearing about 1% of plaque from the arteries, and resulted in similar rates of side effects and cardiac events among patients.

Based on findings, atorvastatin and rosuvastatin are equally as safe and effective in lowering cholesterol and possibly reversing plaque build-up with aggressive treatment. And although rosuvastatin may help decrease LDL cholesterol better than atorvastatin, this may not be an important difference in terms of improved outcomes and slowed disease progression.

Questions for You to Consider

  • Who should take statins?

  • Statins are commonly prescribed to patients with high cholesterol. Most often, patients who need to lower their LDL cholesterol the most are prescribed stronger doses of statins, while those needing to lower their cholesterol slightly may be prescribed lower doses.
  • What are possible side effects of taking statins?

  • Although statins are generally well-tolerated among patients, common side effects include muscle and joint aches, nausea, diarrhea and constipation. Less common, serious side effects include liver damage and muscle problems.


Benefits of Statin Use in Women

Statins are equally effective in women as in men.

Who Should Get Statins for Primary Prevention?

What every patient should know about cholesterol-lowering drugs.

How Common is Fatigue When Taking a Statin

Patients and doctors should always discuss the possible side effects of taking cholesterol-lowering drugs.

Why Are Cheap, Proven Preventive Drugs Underused?

Use of aspirin and statins varies greatly among low, middle and high-income countries.

Niacin and Statin Therapy to Lower Cardiovascular Risk

Lowering bad cholesterol is important, but don’t forget about raising your good cholesterol.