Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs Essay, Research Paper
Thirteen years ago, cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins were introduced as a treatment for people with heart disease. In the relatively short amount of time the drug has been available, it has been prescribed to nearly five million people. Originally, statins were introduced to prevent heart attacks and prolong the lives of people with existing heart disease or with a history of heart disease. Recently, however, studies have shown that statins are not only useful for the treatment of heart disease, but are also useful in the lowering of cholesterol levels.
Although statins have few known side effects, many doctors believe that the drugs are too new to rule out the possibility of more. The known side effects include liver and muscle toxicity in up to 1 percent of patients. Studies also show the possibility of an increase in suicidal tendencies but that has been yet to be proved because there have been too few studies. The lack of research on the drugs also allows for the possibility of unrecognized toxicity. Because of this possibility, the FDA voted to prohibit, for now, the over-the-counter sales of statins. Along with the unknown side effects of the drugs, another downside is their cost. Because statins are relatively new, their cost is too high for doctors to prescribe it to everyone who has the possibility of benefiting from them.
Statins are enzyme inhibitors. They work by inhibiting the enzyme HMG CoA reductase that binds with a reagent to produce cholesterol. Cells in the liver use the enzyme HMG CoA reductase to produce cholesterol. Liver cells need a small amount of cholesterol because cholesterol is needed for all cellular functions. In order to produce the cholesterol needed, liver cells produce extra receptors to collect L.D.L. from the bloodstream. The new receptor sites use the L.D.L. floating in the bloodstream, leaving less of the dangerous form of cholesterol to accumulate in blood vessels. This lowering of the amount of L.D.L. in the blood stream benefits the heart by stopping plaque from building up and possibly rupturing, forming a clot that can impede blood flow and in turn kill oxygen starved tissue.
The information in the article about the reduction of cholesterol levels by stations helped me to better understand the practical uses for the inhibition of enzymes and also learn more about the role cholesterol plays in the body and in cellular functions. In lecture, I learned about both cholesterol and enzymes, but before reading the article, I did not fully understand the connection between the two. By reading the article, I learned many things about cholesterol that I did not previously know. I learned how cholesterol can have both positive and negative effects on the body. I learned that although cholesterol is needed for all cellular functions, it can also negatively effect the body by forming plaque which could possibly break apart forming clots which stop blood flow to important tissues. Finally, I learned that L.D.L. or low–density lipoprotein is the “bad” form of cholesterol that floats around in the bloodstream and that it is the type of cholesterol which is responsible for causing the clots which have the possibility of harming important organs such as the heart.
Another important thing I learned from the article on statins is the amount of research it takes to find out all of the benefits and side effects of a drug. It amazes me the long amount of time it takes to figure out the side effects of a drug. Statins were introduced almost 13 years ago and yet they are still not completely sure whether they cause suicidal tendencies or if they have the possibility of producing unrecognized toxins. To me, 13 years seems like a large amount of time. I thought that with all of today’s advanced technology, scientists would be able to perform studies on the newly introduced drugs with greater speed and that had results that would either prove or disprove the predicted side effects. It amazes me that this is not the case. A drug that has been around for over a decade can still not be sold over the counter because it still is not completely understood.
By reading the article, I learned many new things about cholesterol and enzymes that I did previously know. It was good to see how science is able to treat many harmful conditions through new drugs and studies, but it is also disappointing that the process takes so long. Reading about how statins help reduce cholesterol which in turn helps treat heart disease gives me the hope that one day in my lifetime, there will be drugs that will be able to help treat or even possibly cure other life-threatening diseases such as Cancer and AIDS.