The race is on by the pharmaceutical companies to get their cholesterol reducing prescription drugs approved by government agencies around the world for over the counter use. They would like to see Lipitor (atorvastatin) and Zocor (simvastatin) next to Tylenol and Bayer. No more doctors visits, no more blood work, just pop the pill daily and off you go about your daily routine. But the question becomes, how do we know that we are using this medication properly? There is no doctor to tell us how we are doing and no test results.
Simvastatin Side Effects
So let us refresh our memories on the side effects of cholesterol reducing drugs. Lets start with the more common ailments such as dizziness, fainting and fast and irregular heartbeats. Then there are body aches and pain, blurred vision, joint pain, muscle cramps, weakness, swelling, headaches, nausea, fever, dry mouth and the list goes on.
If you go to any of the sites that promote simvastatin for example, there is a disclaimer somewhere in the posting about if you experience any of these side effect symptoms, to consult a doctor immediately. In addition, will the bottle tell you that you can’t eat grapefruit while taking this medication? This is an important piece of information that doesn’t belong in the fine print. It belongs in a conversation between you and your doctor.
What most people don’t know is that all prescription drugs come with these tightly wrapped inserts in the original bottles before being dispensed to the general public. Are these inserts going to be included with the over the counter version of simvastatin? Keep in mind that these inserts which are usually 2-4 pages long contain about 30 pages of medical information in very tiny print. These inserts can tell you everything about simvastatin from the clinical trials to the toxicology reports.
Unfortunately, this information is provided in scientific and legal terms. Think of it as kind of a code for the medical community. Pharmacists, doctors and health practitioners will understand what all the statistics and words mean. For the average consumer, it might as well be a sleeping aid. You start reading and off to sleep you go. There were times I read these inserts and had to go to google or wikipedia for a translation.
How Did It Start
The concept of providing cholesterol reducing drugs such simvastatin and atorvastatin over the counter began in England. The National Health Service allowed the sale of 10 mg simvastatin tablets over the counter. They believe the dosage was low enough not to have significant side effects but yet maintain the ability to lower cholesterol counts. Now if you needed a higher dosage, you would have to get a prescription from your doctor. The intent is good but some drawbacks have also been encountered.
Patients or consumers have changed their behavior into assuming that by taking simvastatin, you no longer needed diet and exercise. If you went overboard on pizza and beer one night, you might be likely to pop 2 pills in the morning to try and counteract your indulgence. I think you get the sense that we might begin to self medicate without the proper information at hand to avoid harming ourselves.
Is simvastatin going over the counter a good idea?