The most commonly used medications to treat high cholesterol are statins (Lipitor, Crestor and the generics). Many patients stop taking statins due to side effects but most will be able to take them if the statin is stopped and then restarted. This is important, since most patients will need to take statins for the rest of their lives.
In a large study in Boston, researchers concluded that while patients often report statin-related events and discontinue statin therapy because of them, most are able to restart statins and remain on them long-term. "This suggests that many of the statin-related events may have other causes, are tolerable, or may be specific to individual statins rather than the entire drug class," they wrote.
Some patients do better if they take their statin medication every other day. However, the dose needs to be twice as high as taking it daily in order to achieve the same lipid lowering. There appears to a genetic factor associated with statin muscle aches. Exercise can makes the muscles aches and can be a good reason to change to a different statin. The onset of muscle aches is usually within weeks to months of initiation of therapy but can occur at any time and resolves with six months of stopping the medication.
Of course, the cornerstone to cholesterol control is diet. It is clear that the Mediterranean diet is a delicious way to improve one’s lipid profile. Even the most careful eater may need to take medication to reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke. The lesson here is not to be discouraged if the initial statin experience is not good – a rechallenge might be more successful.