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Study Finds Prescribed Cholesterol Lowering Drugs Safe

Drugs known as statins have been hailed as wonder drugs. They significantly lower cholesterol, or blood fats known as lipids, to prevent heart attack and there is evidence that statins might halt the progression of devastating diseases like Alzeimer's and multiple sclerosis. But enthusiasm over statins dampened somewhat after one of the drugs was taken off the market because of a potentially serious side effect.

Cholesterol-lowering drugs are among the most commonly prescribed medications around the world. But three-years ago, concern arose when U.S. regulators removed cerivastatin from the U.S. market because of reports that it caused rhabdomyolysis, a condition marked by the breakdown of muscles. Left untreated, rhabdomyolysis can lead to kidney failure.

Doctors in the United States continued to prescribe the three remaining statin drugs - atorvastatin, pravastatin and simvastin - cautiously to their heart patients to lower their cholesterol.

To resolve remaining safety questions, the Food and Drug Administration studied the more than 250,000 patients who had been treated with lipid-lowered drugs at a dozen medical care facilities across the country between 1998 and 2001.

During that time, 24 patients were hospitalized with the muscle disorder. Those who took cerivastatin were 10 times more likely develop the side effect.

The results of the study on statin drugs were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.