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.

Note: Be sure to tell your doctor what other prescribed or over-the-counter medicines, 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.

Prescription Medications

Statins (HMG CoA Reductase Inhibitors)

  • Fluvastatin
  • Atorvastatin
  • Lovastatin
  • Pravastatin
  • Simvastatin
  • Rosuvastatin
  • Pitavastatin

Bile Acid Sequestrants

  • Cholestyramine
  • Colestipol
  • Colesevelam

Niacin

Fibric Acid Derivatives

  • Gemfibrozil
  • Fenofibrate

Selective Cholesterol Absorption Inhibitors

  • Ezetimibe

Statins (HMG CoA Reductase Inhibitors)

Common names include:

  • Fluvastatin
  • Atorvastatin
  • Lovastatin
  • Pravastatin
  • Simvastatin
  • Rosuvastatin
  • Pitavastatin

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 heart attack, stroke, and death.

Significant side effects that have been reported with the use of statin medications include:

  • Headache
  • Muscle pain and/or damage
  • Liver damage (rare)
  • Rash

Bile Acid Sequestrants

Common names include:

  • Cholestyramine
  • Colestipol
  • Colesevelam

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 medicines either one hour before or four hours after taking this medication.

Possible side effects include, but are not limited to:

Niacin or Nicotinic Acid

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, two or three times per day, or once a day with the extended-release pill.

Possible side effects can include, but are not limited to:

  • Flushing
  • Itching
  • Rash
  • Indigestion

Fibric Acid Derivatives

Common names include:

  • Gemfibrozil
  • Fenofibrate

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 pain
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Rash
  • Itching
  • Gallstones
  • Muscle pain or inflammation (especially if taken with a statin)

Selective Cholesterol Absorption Inhibitors

Zetia

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 pain
  • Fatigue
  • Allergic reaction (swelling of face, lips, tongue, or throat that may cause difficulty breathing)
  • Joint aches

Special Considerations

Whenever you are taking a prescription medication, take the following precautions:

  • Take your medication as directed. Do not change the amount or the schedule.
  • Do not stop taking it without talking to your doctor.
  • Do not share it.
  • Ask what results and side effects to expect. Report them to your doctor.
  • Some drugs can be dangerous when mixed. Talk to a doctor or pharmacist if you are taking more than one drug. This includes over-the-counter medications and herb or dietary supplements.
  • Plan ahead for refills so you do not run out.