August 13, 2022

Types, benefits and side effects

People with high cholesterol can take several different medications and, in some cases, supplements to help lower their levels. However, a person should work closely with a doctor when taking these medications.

Cholesterol comes in two forms: low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, or “bad” cholesterol, and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, also called “good” cholesterol.

Drugs that target cholesterol levels help reduce the amount of bad cholesterol, often by blocking its creation or absorption.

There are several different cholesterol medications that doctors can prescribe. If a person is unsuccessful with one drug, they can try another.

This article includes a list of several different types of cholesterol-lowering drugs, their generic and brand names, and possible side effects.

Statins are a class of drugs that work by:

  • reduce the amount of cholesterol produced by the liver
  • help the liver remove excess cholesterol from the blood

Most people tolerate statin well. However, they can potentially cause side effects, including:

Here are some examples of statins:

Learn more about statins here.

As their name suggests, cholesterol absorption inhibitors work by blocking the absorption of cholesterol in the small intestine.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved ezetimibe (Zetia) in 2002. It may help lower a person’s cholesterol by 18–25%. As with other medications, it works best in combination with weight management, diet, and exercise.

A person should also tell a doctor if they have any unusual symptoms, such as muscle fatigue or weakness, dark urine, or fever.

Cholesterol absorption inhibitor and statin combination

In some cases, a doctor may prescribe a combination of ezetimibe and a statin to help control cholesterol better. The combination at once blocks cholesterol absorption and cholesterol production.

When a person takes the two drugs together, they usually tolerate them well and experience few side effects.

Combination of a calcium channel blocker and a statin

Combination calcium channel blockers and statins can help manage both cardiovascular disease and cholesterol.

Some benefits include lowering cholesterol, controlling angina, and treating hypertension (high blood pressure) and coronary heart disease.

Medications can be a combined pill or capsule or the use of two different medications together. Examples include:

  • amlodipine/atorvastatin (Caduet)
  • amlodipine (Norvasc); atorvastatin (Lipitor)

Older studies have shown that this combination can be effective in treating high cholesterol levels and reducing the risk of cardiovascular problems. Side effects can be similar to taking statins or calcium channel blockers, such as:

The proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9 (PCSK9) plays a role in the regulation of cholesterol levels.

Increased PCSK9 activity can lead to increased LDL cholesterol levels and heart disease. Lower activity levels can help lower cholesterol levels, especially in people with familial hypercholesterolemia – significantly higher levels of bad cholesterol and cardiovascular risk.

PCSK9 inhibitors work by blocking the activity of PCSK9. In the United States, only three kinds of these inhibitors have FDA approval. They are:

These medications can help lower a person’s cholesterol level and lower their risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

Some possible reactions include nasopharyngitis, which is inflammation of the pharynx and nasal passages, and injection site reactions.

Adenosine triphosphate lyase (ACL) inhibitors help block the production of cholesterol in the liver. A doctor may prescribe them along with statins to help lower high cholesterol levels further. They will also likely recommend changes in diet and exercise.

There are two types of ACL inhibitors, they to understand:

Although most people tolerate these drugs well, they can cause side effects that May include:

Bile acid sequestrants are one of the oldest cholesterol-lowering options that doctors no longer prescribe frequently.

Bile acid sequestrants do not control cholesterol as effectively as newer drugs, such as statins, and may have unwanted side effects. They work by preventing bile acid in the intestines from absorbing foods that can turn into cholesterol.

There are three versions with FDA approval:

Doctors have observed that bile acid sequestrants can bind to drugs, hormones, and vitamins, leading to a decrease in their effectiveness and absorption.

Fibrates generally have a moderate effect on lowering cholesterol levels. Their Main effect reduces the amount of fat in a person’s blood.

Here are some examples of fibrates:

  • fenofibrate (Tricor, Antara, Triglide and Lofibra)
  • gemfibrozil (Lopid)
  • clofibrate (Atromid-S)

Side effects tend to be mild and may include:

  • nausea
  • diarrhea
  • stomach ache

Niacin is a type of B vitamin. It has a mild effect on bad cholesterol and may help lower triglycerides. However, due to its potential for liver toxicity, a person should only take niacin when prescribed by a doctor.

Some possible side effects include:

  • stomach ache
  • rinsing
  • itch

The American Heart Association (AHA) warns that a person should never take niacin supplements due to the potential for serious side effects. This is because supplements can vary greatly in quantity in each pill or batch, even within the same company.

Omega-3 fatty acid ethyl esters come from fish oils. Companies use chemicals to modify and purify them to help reduce triglyceride levels.

Some examples available in the United States to understand:

Some common side effects include a strange taste in your mouth, upset stomach, and excess gas.

People usually refer to these supplements as omega-3 fish oils or omega-3 fatty acids. Large amounts of omega-3s can help lower cholesterol levels. However, the amount is more than a person can usually get from their diet.

To have a significant effect, a person would need to consume around 2-3 grams of omega-2 fatty acids, which is only achievable with supplements.

A person should only take them under the supervision of a doctor due to the risk of serious side effects at higher doses, such as:

  • reduced blood sugar control
  • increased bleeding
  • interactions with other medications
  • hemorrhagic stroke

In most cases, doctors consider statins the first line drug when treating high or high cholesterol.

They may first prescribe other medications if the person has familial hypercholesterolemia.

Otherwise, they will likely prescribe other medications if the statins aren’t working or aren’t working well enough for the person.

People should exercise caution when taking cholesterol-lowering medications. Some medications can interact with each other or, in some cases, with the food a person eats.

For example, when taking certain statins, grapefruit juice, and fresh grapefruit can interact with them.

It is important for a person to review all of their current medications and supplements. They should also ask a doctor what dietary restrictions they should be aware of while taking their medications to avoid possible complications.

Several different drugs and combinations can help lower cholesterol in someone with high amounts of bad cholesterol. They work by blocking the absorption or creation of cholesterol in the body.

A person taking any of these medications should see a doctor and be screened regularly to check the effectiveness of the medications.

If they don’t seem to help, a doctor can probably prescribe a different medication that might work better for the individual.


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