High Cholesterol: Cholesterol-Lowering Medication
How Does Nicotinic Acid Work?
Nicotinic acid (niacin) is a B-complex vitamin. It's found in food, but is also available at high doses by prescription. It lowers LDL cholesterol and raises HDL cholesterol. The main side effects are flushing, itching, tingling and headache. Research has not definitively shown that adding nicotinic acid to statin therapy is associated with a lower risk of heart disease. Examples of nicotinic acid medication include:
How Do Bile Acid Resins Work?
These drugs work inside the intestine, where they bind to bile from the liver and prevent it from being reabsorbed into the circulatory system. Bile is made largely from cholesterol, so these drugs work by depleting the body's supply of cholesterol. The most common side effects are constipation, gas and upset stomach. Examples of bile acid resins include:
How Do Fibrates Work?
Fibrates reduce the production of triglycerides and can increase HDL cholesterol. Examples of fibrates include:
Ezetimibe (Zetia) lowers bad LDL cholesterol by blocking cholesterol absorption in the intestine. Research studies have not definitively found that ezetimibe is associated with a lower risk of heart disease.
Combination Drugs for Cholesterol Lowering
Some people with high cholesterol, other cholesterol problems, or some other medical conditions, achieve the best results with combination drugs -- pills that contain more than one medication. Some examples include:
Advicor: Lovastatin and niacin (nicotinic acid)
Caduet: Atorvastatin and amlodipine, a calcium channel blocker
Liptruzet: Atorvastatin and ezetimibe
Simcor: Simvastatin and niacin (nicotinic acid)
Vytorin: Simvastatin and ezetimibe, a cholesterol absorption inhibitor
What Are the Side Effects of Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs?
The side effects of cholesterol-lowering drugs may include:
*If you have muscle aches, call your doctor immediately. This could be a sign of a life-threatening condition.
Are There Foods or Other Drugs I Should Avoid While Taking Cholesterol-Lowering Medicine?
You should limit grapefruit juice and fresh grapefruit consumption while taking statins, as grapefruit can interfere with the liver's ability to metabolize these medications. Talk with your doctor about your other medications, as it may be appropriate to adjust the dosing of your cholesterol medication depending on interactions.