Lovastatin is a prescription medication used to reduce cholesterol levels, used along with a restricted diet to lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol--the bad cholesterol. Lovastatin is also used to prevent coronary heart disease and the slow progression of plaque buildup in the arteries in patients with coronary artery disease. Consuming alcohol during lovastatin therapy can be harmful for the liver.
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Mechanism of Action
Lovastatin belongs to the class of drugs called the HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors, also known as the statins. HMG-CoA reductase is an enzyme that is involved in a critical step in the formation of cholesterol within the body. Inhibiting, or blocking, its action prevents the body from forming cholesterol and leads to a reduction in total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. The statins are the preferred medications given to patients with high cholesterol because they are able to lower LDL effectively.
Lovastatin may cause an increase in liver enzymes, called serum transaminases. During clinical trials, about 1.9 percent of adult patients who received lovastatin for at least one year developed persistent increases in serum transaminases, according to RxList.com. Increased serum transaminases are defined as enzyme levels that are three times the upper limit of normal or higher. When the medication was discontinued or temporarily stopped, these enzymes usually dropped back to normal or pretreatment levels. In post-marketing surveillance, liver disease has been reported, but this adverse reaction is rare.
Alcohol does not interact with lovastatin, but is not recommended during therapy. Patients with a history of liver disease should avoid the use of alcohol. The “Drug Information Handbook” explains that consuming large amounts of alcohol while using this medication may increase the risk of developing liver disease. Caution should be used in patients who have a history of alcohol abuse. Always inform your physician of alcohol consumption.
Liver function tests, which test the levels of serum transaminases and can indicate liver disease, should be performed before starting lovastatin therapy. Liver function tests should then be performed at six weeks and at 12 weeks after starting therapy to ensure normal levels of serum transaminases. Your physician will then perform liver function tests periodically to rule out liver disease. Do not skip doctor appointments to make sure you are being monitored properly and to avoid developing adverse reactions.