Akira Endo and Masao Kuroda of Tokyo, Japan commenced research into inhibitors of HMG-CoA reductase in 1971 (Endo 1992). This team reasoned that certain microorganisms may produce inhibitors of the enzyme to defend themselves against other organisms, as mevalonate is a precursor of many substances required by organisms for the maintenance of their cell wall (ergosterol) or cytoskeleton (isoprenoids).
The first agent isolated was mevastatin (ML-236B), a molecule produced by the fungus ''Penicillium citrinum''. The pharmaceutical company Merck & Co. showed an interest in the Japanese research in 1976, and isolated lovastatin (mevinolin, MK803), the first commercially marketed statin, from the fungus ''Aspergillus terreus''. Dr. Endo was awarded the 2006 Japan Prize for his work on the development of statins, and the Clinical Medical Research Award from the Lasker Foundation in 2008.
Some scientists take a skeptical view of the need for many people to require statin treatment. Given the wide indications for which statins are prescribed, and the declining benefit in groups at lower baseline risk of cardiovascular events, the evidence base for expanded statin use has been questioned by some researchers. A much smaller minority, exemplified by The International Network of Cholesterol Skeptics, question the "lipid hypothesis" itself and argue that elevated cholesterol has not been adequately linked to heart disease. These groups claim that statins are not as beneficial or safe as suggested.
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