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What Are the Differences between Lipitor® and Simvastatin?

Simvastatin is a generic statin used to lower cholesterol levels.
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  • Written By: Amanda Barnhart
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 10 September 2014
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Lipitor® and simvastatin are both prescription statin medications used to lower LDL, or "bad," cholesterol and raise HDL, or "good," cholesterol levels in the blood. Doctors prescribe statins for patients with high cholesterol that is not adequately controlled with dietary changes. Though Lipitor® and simvastatin work in similar ways, there are differences between the two medications with relation to cost, dosage, and side effects.

Lipitor® is a brand-name drug manufactured by Pfizer. Simvastatin is a generic statin, often sold under the brand name Zocor®, which is manufactured by Merck, another major pharmaceutical company. Because simvastatin is available as a generic drug, the cost is often much less for both insured and uninsured patients.

Both Lipitor® and simvastatin are available as 10 mg, 20 mg, 40 mg, and 80 mg tablets. Simvastatin is also available in a 5 mg tablet and an oral disintegrating tablet that does not require patients to swallow the pill in 10 mg, 20 mg, 40 mg, and 80 mg strengths. Patients who take Lipitor® often benefit from the same levels of cholesterol reduction while taking only half the amount they would require if they took simvastatin. While this is not an issue for patients who require lower doses of the drug, patients who take more than 40 mg of Lipitor® per day will not see the same benefits if they switch to simvastatin since the highest safe dosage of simvastatin is 80 mg per day.

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While Lipitor® and simvastatin have similar side effects, including headache, diarrhea, and gas, some patients experience side effects while taking one medication that they do not experience while taking the other. Patients who complain of side effects while taking either Lipitor® or simvastatin may be switched to the other drug by their doctors to see if it causes fewer side effects. Both drugs have a low but serious risk of liver damage, and simvastatin carries an additional risk of muscle inflammation in some patients.

Patients who require a statin drug to help lower their cholesterol levels should work with their doctors to discuss the different drugs available, including the cost and insurance coverage of the price of the medications. Liver tests should be administered periodically during statin treatment no matter what drug the patient takes to monitor for severe side effects and liver damage. It is vital for patients to discuss any health conditions and medications they currently take with their doctors before taking Lipitor® or simvastatin, as other conditions may limit which drug the patient can take safely.

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serenesurface
Post 3
@ysmina-- That might be true, but simvastatin has much more side effects than Lipitor. I couldn't even walk from muscle stiffness when I was on simvastatin. I don't have this problem with Lipitor.
ysmina
Post 2

I saw an article in a health journal yesterday about atorvastatin (Lipitor) and simvastatin. They did a study about the effectiveness of the drugs and the result was that 80mg of atorvastatin is less effective at reducing bad cholesterol than 80mg of simvastatin.

So why is the opposite being claimed by drug companies and some doctors?

turquoise
Post 1

I was surprised when my doctor gave me simvastatin 40mg in place of Lipitor. I was taking only 10mg of Lipitor before, so I thought that he accidentally gave me the wrong dose with simvastatin.

I called the pharmacist about it and she told me that Lipitor is more potent and so a smaller dose is enough. But she said that I should have no problems with simvastatin and that it should work just as well.

She was right, I switched to simvastatin and it worked just as well as Lipitor. I guess the only difference is the price and I'm happy that I'm paying less for the same medication.

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