Types, benefits and side effects

People with high cholesterol can take a variety of medications and, in some cases, supplements to lower their cholesterol. 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 known as “good” cholesterol.

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

There are several cholesterol medications that doctors can prescribe. If a person doesn’t find success with one drug, they can try another.

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

Statins are a class of drugs that work of:

  • reducing the amount of cholesterol the liver makes
  • helps the liver remove excess cholesterol from the blood

Most people tolerate statins good. However, they can potentially cause side effects, including:

Examples of statins are:

Read more about statins here.

As the 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 can help lower one’s cholesterol by 18-25%. As with other medications, it works best when combined with weight management, diet, and exercise.

A person should also inform a doctor if they experience any unusual symptoms, such as muscle fatigue or weakness, dark-colored urine, or fever.

Combination cholesterol absorption inhibitor and statin

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

When someone takes both drugs together, they will generally tolerate them well and experience few side effects.

Combination calcium channel blocker and statin

Combining calcium channel blockers and statins can help with both cardiovascular disease and cholesterol management.

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

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

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

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

Proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9 (PCSK9) plays a role in regulating cholesterol levels.

Increased PCSK9 activity can lead to increased levels of LDL cholesterol 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 PCSK9 activity. Only in the United States three kinds of these inhibitors have FDA approval. They are:

These medications can help lower a person’s cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

Some possible reactions include nasopharyngitis, an 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 further lower high cholesterol. They will also likely recommend diet and exercise changes.

There are two types of ACL inhibitors, they Involving:

While most people tolerate these medications well, they can cause side effects, including:

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

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

There are three versions with FDA approval:

Doctors noted that bile acid sequestrants can bind to drugs, hormones and vitamins, reducing their effectiveness and absorption.

Fibrates generally have a mild effect on lowering cholesterol levels. Their main effect lowers the amount of fat in a person’s blood.

Examples of fibrates are:

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

Side effects are usually mild and may include:

  • nausea
  • diarrhea
  • stomach ache

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

Some possible side effects are:

  • upset stomach
  • to blush
  • itch

The American Heart Association (AHA) warns that a person should never take niacin supplements due to the possibility of serious side effects. The reason is that supplements can vary widely in how much is in each pill or batch, even within the same company.

Ethyl esters of omega-3 fatty acids are derived from fish oil. Companies use chemicals to alter and purify them to help lower triglyceride levels.

Some examples available in the United States Involving:

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

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

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

A person should only use them under a doctor’s supervision due to the possibility of serious side effects at higher doses, like:

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

In most cases doctors consider statins are the first-line medication in the treatment of elevated or high cholesterol levels.

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

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

People should be careful when taking cholesterol-lowering drugs. Certain medications can interact with each other or, in some cases, with the foods 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 about any dietary restrictions they should be aware of when taking their medication to avoid potential complications.

Various medications and combinations can help lower cholesterol in a person with high amounts of bad cholesterol. They work by blocking the absorption or production of cholesterol in the body.

A person taking any of these medications should work with a doctor and be screened regularly to monitor the effectiveness of the medications.

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

Types, benefits and side effects

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