Simvastatin, brand-name Zocor, and lovastatin, brand-name Mevacor, are drugs used to treat high cholesterol. They are members of a pharmaceutical class of drugs called HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors. Lay people know them as the "statins." For the most part, these medications function similarly and share a similar side effect and drug interaction profile. This is true because the statins share similar chemical structures. There are slight differences between them, however.
Effects on Lipoproteins
The biggest difference between simvastatin and lovastatin is their effect on the lipoproteins, LDL and HDL, and triglycerides. Simvastatin lowers LDL, the bad cholesterol, more than lovastatin does. It reduces your LDL baseline by 26 to 47 percent, while lovastatin decreases LDL by 21 to 40 percent. Simvastatin raises HDL, the good cholesterol 8 to 16 percent. Lovastatin increases HDL by 5 to 9.5 percent. Lovastatin lowers triglycerides, fat in the blood, 8 to19 percent and simvastatin lowers them by 12 to 33 percent.
Simvastatin is available in dosages of 5 mg, 10 mg, 20 mg, 40 mg and 80 mg. Lovastatin is available in 10 mg, 20 mg, 40 mg and 80 mg tablets. Lovastatin also comes in a long-acting version called Altoprev. For the treatment of high cholesterol, the starting dose of both simvastatin and lovastatin is 20 mg.
Simvastatin and lovastatin also differ in how they are administered. Lovastatin should be taken in the evening with a meal, while you can take simvastatin with or without food. Food increases the absorption of lovastatin, so more of the drug is available to exert its effects. Food has no effect on simvastatin's absorption.
According to data reported in the Drug Information Handbook, lovastatin begins lowering LDL more quickly than simvastatin. Lovastatin produces its effect within three days, while simvastatin takes a little longer.