All you need to know about simvastatin (Simvador, Zocor)

M.E.D.S HEADING

A patient visits Behealthibe pharmacy and wants to know about simvastatin

Simvastatin prescription

How to get the best out of your treatment with simvastatin – A comprehensive infographic

Have a quick look at our succinct and comprehensive infographic on all things simvastatin.

For a more in depth look into simvastatin please continue reading

What is simvastatin

What is simvastatin used for and how does it work

Simvastatin belongs to a group of medicines known as statins, you’d never guess.
Statins are used to help lower the levels of bad cholesterol in the blood, especially in people diagnosed with high cholesterol.

So, what exactly is this bad cholesterol we’re trying to lower

To understand the mechanism and intention behind using simvastatin, we first need a basic understanding of cholesterol and it’s subtypes:

About cholesterol

A little bit about cholesterol

Cholesterol is a type of fat that is obtained from our diets and naturally produced by our bodies.
Overtime the term “cholesterol” has picked up a negative health connotation, but in reality is an essential component in maintaining the health of our cells.

However, the levels of cholesterol in our blood need to meet a fine balance, where good outweighs evil. A lack of such balance can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) due to its’ narrowing affect on arteries.

More about the “good” and “bad” subtypes of cholesterol

Good ‘HDL’ cholesterol (High density lipoprotein) – As the name suggests, HDL is a lipoprotein (a combination of fat ‘lipid’ and protein) found circulating throughout the blood.

You can imagine HDL as a superhero, a “good” cholesterol that has embraced the role of removing excess cholesterol form the blood. It achieves this by moving cholesterol from the blood, towards to liver, where it is then processed and ready to be removed from body.

Bad ‘LDL’ cholesterol (Low density lipoprotein) – LDL is the evil counterpart to HDL, wreaking havoc around the blood. We says it’s “evil” or “bad” because unlike HDL which removes excess cholesterol from the body, LDL does the opposite by picking up cholesterol from the blood and carrying it to cells. This increases the likelihood of cholesterol building up in the arteries, which causes narrowing, and eventually cardiovascular disease.

What is cholesterol

Ideal cholesterol and fat levels (UK)

Cholesterol levels

By reducing the levels of bad cholesterol in the blood, simvastatin works to prevent the formation of blood clots. By reducing the incidence of blood clots, we can prevent heart disease (heart attacks and strokes).

How to take simvastatin

How to take simvastatin for the best results

Some medicines are better absorbed when taken on an empty stomach, whereas others are better absorbed when taken along side food, however simvastatin may be taken with or without food.

Like all tablets, you should try to take simvastatin with a whole glass of water (preferably at least 8 ounces).

Simvastatin should ideally be taken in the evening, as our bodies tend to produce the majority of its cholesterol on a night. So in essence we are tackling cholesterol whilst it’s at the hight of its powers. However, if you do take simvastatin at a different time in the day, make sure you remain consistent with this time (speak to your doctor before doing so).

You need to know of potential interactions which may affect your treatment with simvastatin – As you probably already know, medicines sometimes have the undesirable tendency to interact with other medicines, which may affect the way they work.

This notion is not however restricted to merely medication, rather certain foodstuffs can sometimes interact with medication. Simvastatin belongs to this group, and unfortunately this means we can’t enjoy that one fruit and its scrumptious juice that you see in everyones fruit basket and fridge.

What exactly is the interaction between simvastatin and grapefruit juice

Image of grapefruit juice – Should avoid drinking too much grapefruit/ grapefruit juice whilst taking simvastatin, as it can cause the levels of simvastatin in the body to rise to undesirable levels, and in turn worsen side effects. Don’t confuse grapefruit with grapes, grapefruit is the big orange looking thing.

What if I forget to take a dose of simvastatin

If you occasionally forget to take a dose of simvastatin, leave todays dose and pick up at your usual time tomorrow. Never take 2 doses at the same time, and never take extra doses.

What to do if I have taken too many simvastatin doses

Taking 1 extra dose of simvastatin is unlikely to cause any harm to you, but if you have taken more than 1 extra dose, or are just worried, don’t hesitate in contacting your pharmacist or doctor.

Common side effects with simvastatin

Which side effects should I be aware of when taking simvastatin

Simvastatin has been used for many years, and has shown to be a very safe medicine. However as with all medicines, different people will react differently, and as a result you can’t be sure if you will or won’t experience side effects at the hands of simvastatin.

Here at Behealthible we think it is beneficial to know the more common side effects, even though not everybody will experience them.

Common side effects – This is list is not exhaustive and does not include more serious side effects

Constipation; diarrhoea; dizziness; flatulence; headache; muscle pain; nausea; sleep problems

Of the above mentioned side effects, if you experience muscle aches and pains, these should ring alarm bells as they may indicate something more serious that requires investigation by a healthcare professional. Symptoms are more likely if you are taking higher doses, and can happen a few weeks, or even months after having started simvastatin. We recommend that you report any ‘unexplained’ muscle pain, tenderness, or weakness to a doctor straight away.

At Behealthible, we also find it to be of vital importance that all patients understand the signs of a serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis/anaphylactic reaction), as these can occur with any medication, and if present require immediate action (call 999 or go to A&E) – Either screenshot NHS part on anaphylaxis or make a new infographic

Signs of a serious allergic reaction with simvastatin

Simvastatin allergy
Simvastatin in pregnancy and breastfeeding

Is it safe to take simvastatin during pregnancy

Simvastatin is not recommend to be taken during pregnancy, as it can affect your baby’s development. You should speak to your doctor if you are planning to become pregnant (may need to stop several months prior). If you become pregnant while taking simvastatin, stop taking the medicine and let your doctor know.

Simvastatin and monitoring

Can I expect to be monitored whilst taking simvastatin?

It is of vital importance that patients understand the ‘WHAT’ and ‘WHY’ of being monitored, as opposed to just the ‘WHEN’, even if it is only the basics. By having the “required” overview, you as the patient can feel more empowered to take control of your health, and in turn champion better health outcomes.

The four test you can expect when starting simvastatin

Lipid (fat) profile (before beginning treatment) – To understand where our fat and cholesterol levels are when beginning and during treatment.

Thyroid function (before beginning treatment) – As an under active thyroid can lead to increased cholesterol levels, and correcting this may be all that is needed to reduce cholesterol.

Liver function (before beginning, then repeated within 3 months, and then at 12 months) – This is because statins can affect your liver health, so we need to ensure that the liver is in good shape before stating treatment, and that it is not deteriorating during treatment.

Kidney function (before beginning treatment) – There is a potential risk of statins causing kidney damage, so we need to ensure that the kidneys are in good shape before stating treatment.

Is it safe to take simvastatin whilst breastfeeding

It is not known if simvastatin passes from the mother into the breast milk, but in a scenario where it does pass to the breast milk it can potentially cause problems for your baby. It is sometimes recommended that the mother stop taking simvastatin temporality during breastfeeding, but ensure you consult with your doctor before doing so.

How long does simvastatin take to work

If you take simvastatin regularly, and as prescribed, your cholesterol levels should drop noticeably within 4 weeks.

Is simvastatin addictive

No need to worry, simvastatin is not known to be addictive, and if you ever stop (which you shouldn’t unless under the advice of a prescriber) you will not experience any withdrawal symptoms, which is what usually keeps people coming back to using drugs.

Conclusion

Hope you feel more educated on simvastatin, and feel more confident taking it.

Which piece of information did you find most surprising, please let us know by commenting below.

If you haven’t found your answer or have any other questions, feel free to drop us a comment and one of our pharmacist will get back to you.

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References

https://bnf.nice.org.uk/drug/simvastatin.html

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/high-cholesterol/cholesterol-levels/

https://www.nhs.uk/medicines/simvastatin/