Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs may help reduce the bad cholesterol (LDL), increase the good cholesterol (HDL) and reduce triglycerides (a blood fat). There are several classes of drugs that are used to treat cholesterol, including statins. Your doctor may prescribe a combination therapy of drugs for your specific situation. An elevated cholesterol level (hypercholesterolemia) is a major risk factor for coronary heart disease and cholesterol-lowering drugs may help to reduce that risk, when taken as directed. Due to potential side effects, patients who are taking most cholesterol-lowering drugs may need to have periodic liver function tests. When taking cholesterol lowering medication, it is still important to eat a healthy diet, be physically active and live a heart healthy lifestyle.
Statins are among the most commonly prescribed drugs in medicine. Clinical studies have shown that statins significantly reduce the risk of heart attack and death in patients with proven coronary artery disease (CAD), and can also reduce cardiac events in patients with high cholesterol levels who are at increased risk for heart disease. While best known as drugs that lower cholesterol, statins have several other beneficial effects that may also improve cardiac risk, and that may turn out to be even more important than their cholesterol-reducing properties.
This class of drugs works in the liver to prevent the formation of cholesterol. Statins are most effective at lowering the LDL (bad) cholesterol, but also have modest effects on lowering triglycerides (blood fats) and raising HDL (good) cholesterol.
Most of statins’ side effects are mild and generally go away as your body adjusts. Muscle problems and liver abnormalities are rare, but your doctor may order regular liver function tests. Patients who are pregnant or who have active or chronic liver disease should not take statins.
Statins currently available in the U.S.include :
- Atorvastatin (Lipitor®)**
- Fluvastatin (Lescol®)**
- Lovastatin (Mevacor®, Altoprev™)**
- Pravastatin (Pravachol®)**
- Rosuvastatin Calcium (Crestor®)**
- Simvastatin (Zocor®)**
Statins are also found in the combination medications Advicor®** (lovastatin + niacin), Caduet®** (atorvastatin + amlodipine), and Vytorin™** (simvastatin + ezetimibe).
Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs may help reduce the bad cholesterol (LDL), increase the good cholesterol (HDL) and reduce triglycerides (a blood fat).
If you suffer from the sometimes very disabling side effects of statins, there may be an alternative that should be discussed with your doctor: Cholestyramine (Questran) is an oral medication that reduces the levels of cholesterol in the blood and improves the itching associated with liver disease.
Fibrates are best at lowering triglycerides and in some cases increasing HDL (good cholesterol) levels. These drugs are not very effective in lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol.
Niacin (Nicotinic Acid)
This drug works in the liver by affecting the production of blood fats. Niacin is prescribed to lower triglycerides and LDL cholesterol and raise HDL (“good”) cholesterol.