Is It Safe to Combine Gemfibrozil and Simvastatin?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Taking simvastatin with gemfibrozil should be avoided.
Taking simvastatin with gemfibrozil should be avoided.

The use of gemfibrozil and simvastatin together is contraindicated because it can pose risks for the patient. In rare cases, a medical provider may decide that the benefits of combining the drugs outweigh the risks. Patients taking a combination of the drugs should be alert for side effects like muscle pain and weakness, and should report these issues promptly. They can be a sign of a serious complication that could lead to muscle and kidney damage.

Those who take statins should check with their doctors to see if it's safe to drink grapefruit juice, which can interact with the drugs.
Those who take statins should check with their doctors to see if it's safe to drink grapefruit juice, which can interact with the drugs.

Concerns about gemfibrozil and simvastatin surround their mechanisms of action. Simvastatin is a statin drug designed to lower levels of bad cholesterol in the body. Gemfibrozil is a drug in a class called fibrates that control cholesterol and triglycerides. These medications can interact, as fibrates have been known to increase levels of statins in the blood serum. When the body doesn’t clear these medications fast enough, known side effects like potential muscle damage on statins can become a more serious risk because the concentration of the medication is higher.

Some patients who take gemfibrozil and simvastatin may experience some mild myopathy, where their muscles are weak and sore. Others can develop a serious complication called rhabdomyolysis. In this medication interaction, the body starts attacking its own muscle tissue, causing intense pain. The kidneys are not able to process the byproducts of muscle breakdown and can fail or be seriously injured.

Individual experiences on gemfibrozil and simvastatin can vary. Some patients take the medications together without any problem and may have taken them for years. It is important to discuss the possibility of interactions with a doctor, and to identify specific signs and symptoms so patients know when to call in if they have a problem. Rhabdomyolysis is a potentially very severe medical complication; patients shouldn’t be afraid to call with concerns about muscle pain and soreness as a medical provider would rather be safe than sorry.

Manufacturers of both medications recommend against combining gemfibrozil and simvastatin because of the increased risk for side effects. More generally, statins and fibrates are not a good combination in treatment for a patient with high cholesterol. In very specific instances, mixing the drugs could be necessary to control a patient’s condition, in which case careful monitoring may be recommended. The patient could need regular blood tests to monitor kidney function and check serum levels of medication. If problems arise, one or more of the medications may need to be discontinued.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

anon342948

I was on this combination for several years. I was also tired all the time. Then, in the span of three days, I went from getting around normally, to not being able to stand from a chair. I went to the hospital and was diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis. I sent a month in the hospital and rehab home getting back enough strength to walk. Doing betting, but need to use a four-wheel walker when I'm out of the house.

Over the last several years, I had noticed my ability to walk distances was diminishing quickly. No more walking into the store from the back of the parking lot. I had to find a close space and many times would use the battery carts to shop. I couldn't stay on my feet that long without sitting/resting. Turns out it was this med combination working slowly on the muscles. When the statin dose was increased, it was about a month until things came crashing down.

My daughter is in college for nursing and looked in her drug book. Rhabdomyolysis is highlighted in red for this medication combo as a side effect. My opinion from my experience? Just say, "No".

anon325540

My husband was prescribed both gemfibrozil and simvastatin. A nurse called and told him to quit taking the gemfibrozil as he should not be taking them together. We have called his doctors several times and asked them to call him back. None will call. He is tired all the time for no reason, and sleeps all the time!

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    • Taking simvastatin with gemfibrozil should be avoided.
      Taking simvastatin with gemfibrozil should be avoided.
    • Those who take statins should check with their doctors to see if it's safe to drink grapefruit juice, which can interact with the drugs.
      Those who take statins should check with their doctors to see if it's safe to drink grapefruit juice, which can interact with the drugs.