The main difference between simvastatin and lovastatin is the usual therapeutic dosage that is prescribed. They also differ, very slightly, in chemical structure but share the same mechanism of action, potential for interactions and adverse effects. They are both used to treat high cholesterol and in most countries are available by prescription only. Their trade names may differ from country to country, according to manufacturer. Due to the differences in their therapeutic dosages, the strengths of the available pharmaceutical products may also differ.
Simvastatin and lovastatin belong to the class of drugs called HMG-CoA Reductase inhibitors, or “statins.” They work to lower the levels of cholesterol in the body by blocking HMG-CoA reductase, an enzyme involved in producing cholesterol. High levels of cholesterol may lead to blockages of the blood vessels resulting in heart attack, stroke and angina. Initially, lifestyle changes will be recommended in patients with high cholesterol which include dietary changes, loss of weight and exercise.
Cholesterol levels can be measured using a simple blood test called a lipid profile. The treating doctor will do a baseline test and monitor the cholesterol levels. If the cholesterol levels are mildly raised, lifestyle changes may be recommended initially, with the addition of medication if and when necessary. There are a number of different classes of drugs to treat high cholesterol and the best option will be recommended by the treating doctor, according to each patient’s lipid profile.
The starting and maintenance doses of simvastatin and lovastatin may differ. The usual dosage range of simvastatin is 5 to 40 mg daily whereas the usual dose of lovastatin is 10 to 80 mg daily or in two doses a day. The maintenance dose of both simvastatin and lovastatin will be determined by the prescribing doctor, according to response and tolerance. The prescribed dose should never be exceeded.
As with any medication, both simvastatin and lovastatin may cause unwanted side effects. In general, the side effects that have been reported are similar for both and may include liver toxicity and muscle problems. Should muscle pain or any other adverse effect be experienced, medical advice should be sought immediately. The drug may be discontinued by the doctor, or the dose may be reduced.
Interactions may occur with other medications and both simvastatin and lovastatin. Any other medications should be discussed with the prescribing doctor, including over-the-counter, homeopathic and complementary medications. Both drugs may be contraindicated in people with some clinical conditions so these should also be disclosed, as should pregnancy, desired pregnancy and lactation.