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Pravastatin

1. About pravastatin

Pravastatin belongs to a group of medicines called statins.

It's used to lower cholesterol if you've been diagnosed with high blood cholesterol. It's also taken to prevent heart disease, including heart attacks and strokes.

Your doctor may prescribe pravastatin if you have a family history of heart disease, or a long-term health condition such as type 1 or type 2 diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis.

This medicine is available on prescription as tablets.

2. Key facts

  • Pravastatin seems to be a very safe medicine. It's unusual to have any side effects.
  • Do not take pravastatin if you are pregnant, trying to get pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Take pravastatin even if you feel well, as you will still be getting the benefits. Most people with high cholesterol don't have any symptoms.
  • Pravastatin is also called Pravachol.

3. Who can and can't take pravastatin

Pravastatin can be taken by adults and children over 8 years old.

Pravastatin isn't suitable for some people. Tell your doctor if you:

  • have had an allergic reaction to pravastatin or any other medicines in the past
  • have liver or kidney problems
  • are trying to get pregnant, think you might be pregnant, you're already pregnant, or you're breastfeeding
  • have severe lung disease
  • drink large amounts of alcohol
  • have an underactive thyroid
  • have had muscular side effects when taking a statin in the past
  • have had a muscle disorder (including fibromyalgia)

4. How and when to take it

Take pravastatin once a day in the evening. This is because your body makes most cholesterol at night.

Pravastatin doesn't upset the stomach, so you can take it with or without food. Swallow pravastatin tablets whole with a glass of water.

In adults, the usual dose is 10mg to 40mg once a day. Your dose depends on the reason for taking it, your cholesterol levels and what other medicines you're taking.

Ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice if you're unsure how much to take. Don't reduce your dose without talking to your doctor first.

In children aged 8 to 13 years old, the usual dose is 10mg to 20mg once a day. In children aged 14 to 17 years old, the dose may range from 10mg to 40mg daily.

Your doctor will work out the amount of pravastatin that's right for your child based on their age.

What if I forget to take it?

If you occasionally forget to take a dose, take your next dose the next day at the usual time. Never take 2 doses at the same time. Never take extra doses.

If you often forget doses, it may help to set an alarm to remind you. You could also ask your pharmacist for advice on other ways to help you remember to take your medicine.

What if I take too much?

Taking an extra dose of pravastatin by accident is unlikely to harm you.

Talk to your pharmacist or doctor if you're worried or if you take more than 1 extra dose.

5. Side effects

Pravastatin seems to be a very safe medicine and it's unusual to have side effects. However, different statins can affect people in different ways.

Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if side effects bother you or don't go away. They may recommend taking a different statin.

One rare but serious side effect is unexplained muscle aches and pains. This can happen a few weeks or months after you first start taking pravastatin. Report any unexplained muscle pain, tenderness or weakness to a doctor straight away.

Another very rare side effect can be memory loss. This usually goes away when you stop taking the medicine.

Serious side effects

It happens rarely, but less than 1 in 1,000 people taking pravastatin may have a serious side effect.

Stop taking pravastatin and call a doctor if you develop:

  • unexplained muscle pain, tenderness, weakness or cramps - these can be a sign of muscle breakdown and kidney damage
  • yellow skin or the whites of your eyes turn yellow, or if you have pale poo and dark pee - these can be signs of liver problems
  • severe stomach pain - these can be a sign of inflammation of the pancreas
  • a cough, feeling short of breath and weight loss - these can be signs of lung disease

Serious allergic reaction

In rare cases, it's possible to have a serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to pravastatin.

Urgent advice: Contact a doctor straight away if:

  • you get a skin rash that may include itchy, red, swollen, blistered or peeling skin
  • you're wheezing
  • you get tightness in the chest or throat
  • you have trouble breathing or talking
  • your mouth, face, lips, tongue or throat start swelling

These are warning signs of a serious allergic reaction. A serious allergic reaction is an emergency.

These are not all the side effects of pravastatin. For a full list see the leaflet inside your medicines packet.

Information:

You can report any suspected side effect to the UK safety scheme.

6. Pregnancy and breastfeeding

Pravastatin is not recommended in pregnancy or while breastfeeding, as there's no firm evidence that it's safe.

Talk to your doctor if you want to get pregnant. It's best to stop taking pravastatin at least 3 months before you start trying for a baby.

If you become pregnant while taking pravastatin, stop taking the medicine and tell your doctor.

Pravastatin and breastfeeding

It's not known if pravastatin gets into breast milk, but it may cause problems for your baby. You may be able to stop pravastatin temporarily while you breastfeed.

Non-urgent advice: Tell your doctor if you're:

  • trying to get pregnant
  • pregnant
  • breastfeeding

7. Cautions with other medicines

Some medicines interfere with the way pravastatin works and can increase the chances of you having serious side effects such as muscle damage.

Medicines that may not mix well with pravastatin include:

  • some antibiotics and antifungals
  • some HIV medicines
  • some hepatitis C medicines
  • ciclosporin (treats psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis)
  • colchicine (a medicine for gout)

If you're taking pravastatin and need to take one of these medicines, your doctor may:

  • prescribe a lower dose of pravastatin
  • prescribe a different statin
  • recommend that you temporarily stop taking your pravastatin

Mixing pravastatin with herbal remedies and supplements

There's very little information about taking herbal remedies and supplements with pravastatin.

Important

For safety, tell your doctor and pharmacist if you're taking any other medicines, including herbal remedies, vitamins or supplements.

8. Common questions

How does pravastatin work?

Pravastatin acts on the liver to stop it making cholesterol. This lowers your blood cholesterol level.

For the first 12 months on this medicine, you'll be offered a couple of routine tests to make sure your liver is working normally.

How long do statins take to work?

Your cholesterol levels should drop noticeably within 4 weeks - if you take your medicine regularly, as prescribed.

How long will I take pravastatin for?

Usually, treatment with a statin such as pravastatin is for life. The benefits will only continue for as long as you take it. If you stop taking pravastatin without starting a different treatment, your cholesterol level may rise again.

Are statins safe?

You may have read negative stories about statins, but they're thought to be very safe, effective medicines.

Statins are thought to have very few side effects. Sometimes the side effects that people report aren't related to their medicine. However, if you're concerned about the safety of statins, talk to your doctor.

Is it safe to take pravastatin for a long time?

Pravastatin is safe to take for a long time, even many years. In fact, it works best when you take it for a long time.

Statins have been used for nearly 30 years to lower cholesterol.

Is pravastatin addictive?

No, there's no evidence that pravastatin is addictive. You won't get any withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking it.

What will happen if I come off it?

You may want to stop pravastatin if you think you're having side effects. Talk to your doctor first to see if it really is a side effect of pravastatin or an unrelated problem. Your doctor may decide to lower your dose or change your medicine.

You won't get any withdrawal symptoms. However, stopping pravastatin may cause your cholesterol to rise. This increases your risk of heart attacks and strokes.

If you want to stop taking your medicine, it's important to find another way to lower your cholesterol.

Does it help to take supplements together with statins?

There's some interest in taking CoQ10 together with statins. However there's no firm evidence that taking CoQ10 at the same time as pravastatin will benefit your health. More research is needed.

If you decide to take a CoQ10 supplement, tell your doctor or pharmacist. Supplements can interfere with other medicines you may also be taking.

Will taking pravastatin increase my risk of diabetes?

If you're at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes, taking statins may slightly increase this risk. This is because statins can raise your blood sugar a little.

Speak to your doctor, who will be able to explain how the benefits of taking statins are likely to outweigh this small increased risk.

If you already have type 2 diabetes, your doctor may advise monitoring your blood sugar levels more closely for the first few months. Tell your doctor or diabetes nurse if you find it harder to control your blood sugar.

How does it compare with other medicines for high cholesterol?

Statins all work in the same way, but they differ in how well they lower cholesterol.

There are several other cholesterol-lowering statin medicines, including:

If you have a side effect with one statin, it may not happen with another. Some medicines don't mix well with one statin, but you can take them with a different one.

Your doctor will find the right statin and dose for you, depending on your medical history, cholesterol level and the other medicines you take.

Can I drive or ride a bike?

Occasionally, pravastatin can make you feel dizzy or have blurred or double vision. If this happens to you, do not drive or use machines or tools, until you feel better.

Will it affect my fertility?

There's no firm evidence to suggest that taking pravastatin will reduce fertility in either men or women.

However, speak to a pharmacist or your doctor before taking it if you're trying to get pregnant.

Will it stop my contraception working?

Pravastatin won't affect any type of contraception, including the combined pill and emergency contraception.

Can I drink alcohol with it?

Yes, you can drink alcohol while taking pravastatin.

However, drinking a lot of alcohol may increase the chances of you getting muscle and liver side effects.

Try to keep to the recommended guidelines of no more than 14 units of alcohol a week. A standard glass of wine (175ml) is 2 units. A pint of lager or beer is usually 2 to 3 units of alcohol.

Is there any food or drink I need to avoid?

You can eat and drink normally on pravastatin.

Unlike with other statins, such as simvastatin and atorvastatin, it's safe to drink grapefruit juice with pravastatin.

Can lifestyle changes help?

Reducing your cholesterol may mean you don't need to be prescribed a statin medicine. There are lifestyle changes you can make that will help lower your cholesterol:

Page last reviewed: 20 December 2018
Next review due: 20 December 2021