The information provided here is meant to give you a general idea about each of the medications listed below. Only the most general side effects are included. Ask your doctor if you need to take any special precautions. Use each of these medications only as recommended by your doctor, and according to the instructions provided. If you have further questions about usage or side effects, contact your doctor.
Be sure to tell your doctor what other prescribed or over-the-counter medications, supplements, or herbs you are taking; they could interact with your medications.
If your cholesterol level is elevated, your doctor may recommend medication in addition to diet and lifestyle changes. The decision to start cholesterol-lowering drugs depends not only on your cholesterol level but also on your overall heart-disease risk. Heart disease risk factors include age, obesity, family history, smoking, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
The following medications may be used to treat lipid disorders.
(HMG CoA Reductase Inhibitors)
Bile Acid Sequestrants CholestyramineColestipolColesevelam
Fibric Acid Derivatives GemfibrozilFenofibrate
Selective Cholesterol Absorption Inhibitors Ezetimibe
Common names include: FluvastatinAtorvastatinLovastatinPravastatinSimvastatinRosuvastatinPitavastatin
Statins lower total blood cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. They also lower heart disease risks. The drugs are usually taken daily with dinner or in the evening. Your doctor may measure your blood cholesterol levels regularly while you are taking these drugs.
Even if you currently have no known coronary heart disease (CHD), you may benefit from taking statin (cholesterol-lowering) medications, particularly if your cholesterol levels are elevated. The medication may reduce the incidence of
, and death.
Significant side effects that have been reported with the use of statin medications include: HeadacheMuscle pain and/or damageLiver damage (rare)Rash
Common names include: CholestyramineColestipolColesevelam
Bile acid sequestrants lower cholesterol levels by changing the way that cholesterol is metabolized. The drugs are in powder form and are taken with meals to decrease side effects. They should not be taken within hours of any other medications. Usually you should take other medications either one hour before or four hours after taking this medication.
Possible side effects include, but are not limited to: HeartburnIndigestionConstipation
Niacin is a B vitamin. At higher doses, it can lower cholesterol levels and triglycerides. It is not known how it works. Niacin should be taken with meals, 2-3 times per day, or once a day with the extended-release pill.
Possible side effects can include, but are not limited to: FlushingItchingRashIndigestion
Common names include: GemfibrozilFenofibrate
Fibric acid derivatives are usually taken to lower triglyceride levels and increase HDL (good) cholesterol. They may also help lower LDL cholesterol.
Possible side effects include, but are not limited to: Abdominal painNauseaDiarrheaRashItchingGallstonesMuscle pain or inflammation (especially if taken with a statin)
Ezetimibe lowers both total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol. It works by a different mechanism than the statins by decreasing the amount of cholesterol that your body absorbs.
Possible side effects include, but are not limited to: Abdominal painFatigueAllergic reaction (swelling of face, lips, tongue, or throat that may cause difficulty breathing)Joint aches
If you are taking medications, follow these general guidelines: Take the medication as directed. Do not change the amount or the schedule. Ask what side effects could occur. Report them to your doctor.Talk to your doctor before you stop taking any prescription medication.Plan ahead for refills if you need them.Do not share your prescription medication with anyone.Medications can be dangerous when mixed. Talk to your doctor if you are taking more than one medication, including over-the-counter products and supplements.
American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association. 2013 ACC/AHA Guideline on the Treatment of Blood Cholesterol to Reduce Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Risk in Adults.
J Am Coll Cardiol. 2013: early online. Available at:
http://content.onlinejacc.org/article.aspx?articleID=1770217. Accessed January 13, 2014.
How is high blood cholesterol treated?
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
website. Available at:
http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/hbc/treatment. Updated September 19, 2012. Accessed January 13, 2014.
Prevention and treatment of high cholesterol. American Heart Association website. Available at:
Updated May 1, 2013. Accessed January 13, 2014.
1/30/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114250/Hypercholesterolemia Mills EJ, Rachlis B, et al. Primary prevention of cardiovascular mortality and events with statin treatments: a network meta-analysis involving more than 65,000 patients.
J Am Coll Cardiol.
3/5/2012 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillancehttp://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114250/Hypercholesterolemia FDA announces safety changes in labeling for some cholesterol-lowering drugs. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at:
http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm293623.htm. Updated March 2, 2012. Accessed March 5, 2012.
Last reviewed March 2016 by Marcin Chwistek, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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