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Cholesterol Absorption Inhibitors for High Cholesterol

Examples

Generic Name Brand Name
ezetimibe Zetia

How It Works

Cholesterol absorption inhibitors lower the amount of cholesterol that your body absorbs. So your blood has lower total cholesterol and lower LDL (bad) cholesterol.

Why It Is Used

Cholesterol absorption inhibitors are used to treat high cholesterol in people who cannot take a statin. This medicine lowers total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol.

This medicine is used along with lifestyle changes including diet and exercise to lower cholesterol.

How Well It Works

Ezetimibe (Zetia) lowers total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels in people who have high cholesterol. This medicine can improve cholesterol levels, but it has not been proved to lower the risk of a heart attack or a stroke.

A drug that combines ezetimibe and simvastatin (Vytorin) lowers total cholesterol and LDL levels. But taking Vytorin may not limit hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) any better than the statin medicine alone. But the combination of ezetimibe and simvastatin can lower LDL levels more than simvastatin alone.1

Side Effects

All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.

Here are some important things to think about:

  • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
  • Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
  • If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.

Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:

  • Trouble breathing.
  • Swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Call your doctor right away if you have:

  • Hives.
  • Unexplained muscle pain, tenderness, or weakness.
  • Dark-colored urine.

Common side effects of this medicine include:

  • Stomach ache.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Tiredness.
  • Headache.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Before taking this medicine, tell your doctor all of the medicines you are taking, including over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, or supplements.

A heart-healthy lifestyle is important for lowering your risk whether you take medicine or not. This includes eating healthy foods, being active, staying at a healthy weight, and not smoking.

Taking medicine

Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.

Advice for women

Do not use this medicine if you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant. If you need to take this medicine, talk to your doctor about how you can prevent pregnancy.

If you are breast-feeding, talk to your doctor before using ezetimibe. Do not use ezetimibe and a statin if you are breast-feeding.

Checkups

You will have regular doctor visits and tests to check your cholesterol level and to check for side effects.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.

References

Citations

  1. Kastelein JJP, et al. (2008). Simvastatin with or without ezetimibe in familial hypercholesterolemia. New England Journal of Medicine, 358(14): 1431–1443.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Robert A. Kloner, MD, PhD - Cardiology
Specialist Medical Reviewer Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
Current as of March 12, 2014

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