Home » Cardiovascular Health » Cholesterol Treatment » Cholesterol Medicines

Facts about High Cholesterol Medication

High Cholesterol Medication

  • The most popular type of is statins which stop the production of cholesterol by the liver
  • Bile acid resins and cholesterol absorption inhibitors prevent the body from absorbing the cholesterol
  • Fibrates reduce the production of triglycerides in the body
  • Like most medications, cholesterol medicines do have risks of side effects

While many physicians recommend lifestyle changes before prescribing high cholesterol medication, if those numbers don’t come down then cholesterol drugs are the next step. There are several different types of cholesterol medicines. Finding the right one for your health is a decision for you and your physician but understanding more about your options can help you contribute more to that choice.


Probably the most commonly prescribed types of cholesterol drugs are statins. This category includes some of the top sellers in the world, including Lipitor and Crestor. Statin drugs work by stopping the liver from producing cholesterol. As a result, total cholesterol levels drop, as do LDL levels. HDL levels may also increase. However, there are some potential side effects associated with taking statins. Liver damage and kidney damage (as a result of muscle breakdown) are two of the most serious side effect possibilities. While these are rare, the risks increase the longer you take the drugs and the higher the dosage you must take. Independent research has also documented a third serious side effect which is cognitive dysfunction. More research is being down to explore this possible side effect.

Bile Acid Resins

Drugs such as Welchol and Questran are cholesterol medicines known as bile acid resins. Bile is a compound produced by the body to assist in the digestion of fats, but it’s made almost entirely from cholesterol produced by the liver. These types of drugs combine with the bile and stop it from being reabsorbed into the body. That keeps cholesterol numbers. While bile acid resins can lower LDL cholesterol, they don’t normally help increase HDL and some studies have shown they increase the level of triglycerides. Possible side effects associated with these types of high cholesterol medication are constipation and bloating.

Combination Medications

Vytorin is a new class of high cholesterol medication which combines statins, discussed above, with cholesterol absorption inhibitors. These inhibitors, which are also marketed alone (Zetia is one example), stop the body from absorbing the cholesterol into the body and into the bloodstream. Like the bile acid resins, this function lowers the levels of LDL cholesterol in the body. By combining this effect with statins that stop the body from producing its own cholesterol, this can be an effective treatment for people with dangerously high cholesterol levels who need serious reductions.

Unfortunately, a combination medication is also going to result in a combination of side effects. Muscle problems associated with statins can be a problem with these types of medications, too. Also, some patients report bloating, excessive gas, and abdominal pain.


With some patients, triglycerides are the more serious problem with the cholesterol numbers. Triglycerides are different than the other parts of the cholesterol numbers. They form when excessive calories are stored for future energy needs but many people never need to use their stored triglycerides so they end up with high levels that can lead to a greater risk of heart disease. Fibrates, such as Tricor, are designed to reduce the production of these compounds in the body. A consequence is the increase in HDL levels. Taking fibrates can increase your risks of developing gall stones; other side effects include nausea and stomach pain.

The information supplied in this article is not to be considered as medical advice and is for educational purposes only.

2 Responses to “Facts about High Cholesterol Medication”

  1. 1
    jill Says:
    If you start taking statins, how long and how often should they be taken? Do they interfere with other medicaitons you may be on, like blood pressure pills or birth control?
  2. 2
    Jonathan Says:
    If you start taking statins, how long and how often should they be taken? Do they interfere with other medicaitons you may be on, like blood pressure pills or birth control?