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Thirteen years ago, cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins were introduced as a treatment for people with heart disease. In the relatively short amount of time the drug has been available, it has been prescribed to nearly five million people. Originally, statins were introduced to prevent heart attacks and prolong the lives of people with existing heart disease or with a history of heart disease. Recently, however, studies have shown that statins are not only useful for the treatment of heart disease, but are also useful in the lowering of cholesterol levels.Although statins have few known side effects, many doctors believe that the drugs are too new to rule out the possibility of more. The known side effects include liver and muscle toxicity in up to 1 percent of patients. Studies also show the possibility of an increase in suicidal tendencies but that has been yet to be proved because there have been too few studies. The lack of research on the drugs also allows for the possibility of unrecognized toxicity. Because of this possibility, the FDA voted to prohibit, for now, the over-the-counter sales of statins. Along with the unknown side effects of the drugs, another downside is their cost. Because statins are relatively new, their cost is too high for doctors to prescribe it to everyone who has the possibility of benefiting from them.Statins are enzyme inhibitors. They work by inhibiting the enzyme HMG CoA reductase that binds with a reagent to produce cholesterol. Cells in the liver use the enzyme HMG CoA reductase to produce cholesterol. Liver cells need a small amount of cholesterol because cholesterol is needed for all cellular functions. In order to produce the cholesterol needed, liver cells produce extra receptors to collect L.D.L. from the bloodstream. The new receptor sites use the L.D.L. floating in the bloodstream, leaving less of the dangerous form of cholesterol to accumulate in blood vessels. This lowering of the ...

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