Health Encyclopedia

 

 

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. This medicine lowers total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol.

This medicine is used along with lifestyle changes including diet and exercise to lower cholesterol. It can be used alone or taken with a statin or other cholesterol-lowering medicines.

How Well It Works

Ezetimibe (Zetia) lowers total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels in people who have high cholesterol.1

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.2

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.

Be active and eat a cholesterol-lowering diet in addition to taking this medicine. Ask your doctor for advice on a diet that can help lower cholesterol. An example is the Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC) diet. For more information, see:

Click here to view an Actionset. High Cholesterol: Using the TLC Diet.

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.

There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.

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)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.

References

Citations

  1. Drugs for lipids (2011). Treatment Guidelines From The Medical Letter, 9(103): 13–20.
  2. 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
Last Revised June 29, 2012

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

© 1995-2013 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.