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$4 generics
High cholesterol
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Best Buy Drugs for high cholesterol

Last reviewed: February 2011
Lipitor ad of man and woman talking
There are better options for some people; discuss with your doctor.

The fear of high cholesterol can make it difficult to even look at dessert or other cholesterol-laden treats without worrying about clogged arteries, a heart attack, or other problems brought on by high levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol. A healthful diet and exercise can help, but some people might also need a medication called a statin.

If you have to lower your cholesterol by more than 30 percent, you should choose a more potent statin, such as simvastatin (Zocor and generic). If you have diabetes or heart disease or have suffered a heart attack, that could also affect your decision. For some statins there is stronger evidence that they reduce the risk of a heart attack, a stroke, or death for those people.

Statins can cost from a few dollars per month to a couple hundred. Because many people stay on them for years, cost is important. If you experience muscle aches, pain, or fatigue when taking a statin, contact your doctor.

CR Best Buys

  • Generic lovastatin or pravastatin. To lower LDL cholesterol by less than 30 percent.
  • Generic simvastatin. To lower LDL cholesterol by 30 percent or more for those who have heart disease or diabetes, or for those whose LDL is not highly elevated but who have had a heart attack or have acute coronary syndrome.
  • Atorvastatin (Lipitor). For those who’ve had a heart attack or have acute coronary syndrome and highly elevated LDL.

Less impressive

  • Pitavastatin (Livalo). It was approved in 2010, so its track record isn’t as long as other statins’.
  • Fluvastatin (Lescol, Lescol XL), rosuvastatin (Crestor). They’re available only as expensive brand-name drugs and do not offer advantages over the Best Buys.

Lipitor vs. Lovastatin

Not all cholesterol-lowering statins are the same. Inexpensive generics are the best option unless you have had a heart attack or have another heart problem.

Brand-name or top-selling drug CR Best Buy Drug Monthly savings
Lipitor One 10-mg pill per day $112/month
Lovastatin (generic) One 20-mg pill per day $4/month
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