Statin Answers

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Brands of Statin Drugs

There are seven different statin drugs available for prescription in the US.

Atorvastatin was developed by the pharmaceutical company Pfizer and sold under the name Lipitor. Pfizer owned the patent until expiration in November 2011, at which time other companies were allowed to make and sell generic forms of this medicine. Lipitor is synthetic, unlike some statins which are derived from fungus. Atorvastatin may also be used to reduce triglyceride levels as well as reducing blood pressure and lowering LDL levels. It is taken once per day in a dosage level decided by a doctor. (CAS number is 134523-00-5.) It is estimated that 21% of statin prescriptions in the US are for atorvastatin. More on atorvastatin.

Simvastatin was developed by Merck and Co. and sold by the name Zocor, and now available in generic form. Many manufacturers make it and about half of all statin pills sold in the United States are simvastatin. Along with atorvastatin, this is one of the two big drugs in this market. (The two account for over half of statin prescriptions.) One of the first blockbuster statins, simvastatin was approved by the FDA in 1991. Some people should not take simvastatin, including those with allergies to the following inactive ingredients in the pill: cellulose, lactose, magnesium stearate, iron oxides, talc, titanium dioxide and starch. More on simvastatin. (CAS number is 79902-63-9.)

Rosuvastatin was developed by the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca under the name of Crestor. It is available in 5, 10, 20 or 40 mg. tablets to be taken once daily. The patent expired in May 2016, and generics are now available. Attempts by the manufacturer to establish its clear superiority over other statins have fallen flat. CAS (Chemical Abstracts Service) abstract number is 287714-41-4. More on rosuvastatin.

Pravastatin, a statin drug manufactured by Bristol-Meyers Squibb and sold under the name Pravachol or Pravigard, is an enzyme blocker that is derived from a mold called Nocardia autotrophica. It can be prescribed for patients as young as eight years of age, and was approved by the FDA in 1991. Pravastatin is taken in tablet form once daily, and like all statins should be combined with a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet for maximum effectiveness. More on pravastatin. (CAS number is 81093-37-0.)

Fluvastatin, which is produced by Novartis and sold under the name Lescol or Lescol XL, was first approved by the FDA in 1993. Lescol is one of the milder statin drugs, and can be combined with therapeutic lifestyle changes (such as a low-fat diet or increased exercise) to lower LDL cholesterol levels. It is available in capsule form or in extended-release tablet to be taken orally once or twice a day at night. More on fluvastatin. (CAS number is 93957-54-1.)

Lovastatin, which is prescribed under the names Mevacor, Advicor or Altoprev was first approved in 1987. It is derived from Aspergillus terreus, and is used in tandem with diet changes (particularly the restriction of fat and cholesterol intake) in order to reduce amounts of cholesterol and other fatty substances in the blood. Lovastatin is prescribed as either a normal tablet or an extended-release tablet to be taken orally once or twice a day with meals. More on lovastatin and mevacor. (CAS number is 75330-75-5.)

Pitavastatin, sold under the brand name Livalo, was approved by the FDA in August 2009. It is marketed in the US by Eli Lilly. (CAS number is 147526-32-7.) It has been used in Japan since 2003 and is made by the Japanese company Kowa. The company claims pitavastatin is less liable to interactions with other drugs than competing statins. More on pitavastatin.

An eighth statin drug, cerivastatin (Baycol), was taken off the market in 2001 by its manufacturer Bayer because of its serious side effects.

In order of introduction to the US marketplace: lovastatin, pravastatin, fluvastatin, atorvastatin, simvastatin, rosuvastatin, and pitavastatin.


One way to classify statins is by how they are manufactured. Some are derived from micro-organisms through biotechnology. These are called fermentation-derived or Type 1.

Others are made through chemical synthesis (no living organisms involved). These are synthetic, or Type 2 statins. It is common for pharmaceuticals to be made through fermentation or through chemical synthesis.

Manufacture method Type Medicines
Fermentation Type 1 lovastatin, simvastatin, pravastatin, pitavastatin
Synthetic Type 2 fluvastatin, atorvastatin, rosuvastatin


The active molecular component of statins is a modified 3,5-dihydroxyglutaric acid moiety which is similar to the body chemical HMG-CoA. Statin mechanism is by inhibiting the reduction of HMG-CoA in the liver. The differences among the statins arise from the aromatic ring that is attached to the active moiety. Atorvastatin has a pyrrole, fluvastatin has an indolce, cerivastatin has a puridine, and pitvastatin has a quinoline. Lovastatin, simvastatin, pravastatin have a double-ring complex similar to reduced naphthalene. Source.

Water soluble vs Fat soluble - Statins are soluble in both aqueous environments and oily environments. The solubility levels differ enough that it is possible to classify some as hydrophilic (better solubility in water) or lipophilic (better solubility in fats).

Classification by solubility Medicines
Water soluble (hydrophilic) pravastatin, pitavastatin, and rosuvastatin
Fat soluble (lipophilic) atorvastatin, fluvastatin, lovastatin and simvastatin.


The hydrophilic statins have polar additions to the core moiety, while the lipophilic one have non-polar molecular structures. Very generally speaking, the hydrophilic statins are excreted from the body largely unmetabolized by the liver. Lipophilic statins are broken down in the liver by the cytochrome P450 (CYP450) system. Hydrophilic statins tend to have fewer interactions with other drugs.

What Type is Best?

There is no "best" statin. Atorvastatin and simvastatin are the most widely used. Most doctors we talk to feel neither is better than the other.

You might see news stories reporting that one statin is more effective than another. A group of scientists published a criticism of company-sponsored studies. They found that when pharmaceutical companies put up the money to fund the study, the results appear to be unreliable. Some of these studies were too small and were done for marketing purposes. Company-sponsored trials tend to show their own drug coming out on top, which doesn't necessarily mean that the company's drug isn't better than the competition, but you need to look at the sources of these claims.

Generic forms of statins are widely prescribed and used partly because of their lower cost. We have another page just on generics.

Did you know? The word pharmacy derives from the ancient Greek "pharmakon," meaning a drug or charm.

Major statins

More on brands

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