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What is Zocor®?

By Emma Lloyd
Updated May 17, 2024
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Zocor® is a lipid-lowering medication that is derived from a bacterial species called Aspergillus terreus. It is used to treat high cholesterol and is one of a class of cholesterol-lowering drug called statins. Zocor® also is available in many countries as a generic medication called simvastatin.

Hypercholesterolemia, or high blood cholesterol, is a metabolic disorder that is a risk factor for heart disease, vascular disease, heart attack and stroke. High blood cholesterol occurs when blood levels of lipoproteins are abnormal. Lipoproteins are blood molecules that transport cholesterol. Lipoprotein imbalances can be caused by genetic factors, diet and diseases such as hypothyroidism and diabetes. Long-term high blood cholesterol increases the risk of atherosclerosis and coronary artery disease. As the disease becomes more advanced, the risks of heart attack and stroke increase.

Zocor® reduces blood levels of total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol. Low-density lipoprotein has been shown to be a more dangerous form of cholesterol than high-density lipoprotein. The latter variety actually removes cholesterol from the blood and is considered a protective form of lipoprotein, whereas low-density lipoprotein transports cholesterol within the blood. High levels of low-density lipoprotein therefore contribute to high overall blood cholesterol levels.

Statins reduces blood cholesterol levels by blocking production of cholesterol in the liver. These drugs prevent the activity of a liver enzyme called HMG-CoA reductase. This enzyme is essential in the production of cholesterol in the liver. Levels of low-density lipoprotein in the blood also are reduced as a result of reduced cholesterol production, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Mild side effects of Zocor® include diarrhea, constipation, nausea, stomach pain, gas, bloating and heartburn. These side effects generally are not considered serious, but anyone experiencing these symptoms should inform his or her doctor as a precaution. Potentially serious side effects include fever, flu-like symptoms and dark urine, as well as tenderness, weakness and pain in muscles. These symptoms indicate kidney disease that might progress to kidney failure if not treated promptly. Emergency medical treatment should be sought by anyone who experiences these symptoms.

People who take this medication must avoid grapefruit and grapefruit products, because of the possibility of potentially dangerous interactions. Alcohol should be avoided, and the consumption of high fat or high cholesterol foods should be minimized. Several different medications and supplements, including niacin, warfarin and certain antibiotics and antifungals also should be avoided because of the possibility of harmful drug interactions. The list of possible drug interactions is extensive, so anyone taking Zocor® should ensure that his or her doctor knows about other medications being used.

This cholesterol-lowering medication can lead to toxicity in people who have diabetes, hypothyroidism, kidney disease or muscle disorders. Anyone who has one of these diseases should ensure that his or her doctor is aware of it before this medication is prescribed, because a dosage adjustment might be necessary. Another potential issue with Zocor® is that it can cause birth defects if taken during pregnancy. Any woman who is pregnant, suspects she is pregnant or is planning to become pregnant should not take this medication.

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