Health Encyclopedia


Heart Care

All About Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs

All About Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs

Making healthy lifestyle changes alone is enough to help some people reach the cholesterol goals prescribed by their doctor. Others, however, need to take a cholesterol-lowering medication, as well.

According to the American Heart Association, there are five main types:

  • Statins (atorvastatin, fluvastatin, lovastatin, pravastatin, rosuvastatin, simvastatin, pitavastatin). These drugs work mainly by lowering LDL ("bad") cholesterol. They typically reduce LDL by around one-third. They can also help raise HDL ("good") cholesterol and lower triglycerides (other blood fats). Statins work by slowing down the body's production of cholesterol. They also increase the liver's ability to remove LDL from the blood. In research involving people who already had heart disease, statins led to significant reductions in heart attacks and heart disease deaths. They may also prevent first heart attacks in people who are at high risk of developing heart disease.

  • Bile acid sequestrants (cholestyramine, colesevelam, colestipol). These drugs also lower LDL, although somewhat less than statins. These medications work by binding with bile acids in the intestines and forcing them to be eliminated in the stool rather than absorbed. The liver needs cholesterol to make bile acids, so as more bile is lost, more cholesterol from your body is used up to make additional bile. 

  • Nicotinic acid (niacin). This B vitamin increases HDL and lowers LDL and triglycerides when taken at levels higher than dietary requirements. Nicotinic acid is sold as both a prescription drug and a dietary supplement, but only the prescription form should be used for cholesterol lowering.

  • Fibrates (gemfibrozil, fenofibrate). These drugs help mainly by lowering triglycerides. They may also lead to modest improvements in LDL and HDL levels.

  • Selective cholesterol absorption inhibitors (ezetimibe). This drug lowers cholesterol by reducing the amount of cholesterol absorbed by the intestines. Ezetimibe, bile acid sequestrants, or nicotinic acid are sometimes combined with a statin to help people reach their LDL cholesterol-lowering goals.



Related Items
Wellness Library
  Children and Cholesterol
  Heart Disease Risk: Cholesterol and Other Tests
  Lower Your Cholesterol
  For Good Health, Know Your Cholesterol Level
  Lowering Cholesterol: Lifestyle Changes
SCC Videos
  Cholesterol Screening
Content Type 167
  HDL Cholesterol
  Lipid Panel with Total Cholesterol: HDL Ratio
  Lipid Panel with Non-HDL Cholesterol
  Lipid Panel
  VLDL Cholesterol
Nutritional Supplement Advisor
  Brewer's Yeast
Drug Reference
  Niacin, Niacinamide
  Garlic, Allium sativum
  Red Yeast Rice
  Lovastatin; Niacin
  Aspirin, ASA; Pravastatin
  Amlodipine; Atorvastatin
  Ezetimibe; Simvastatin
  Fenofibric Acid
  Cholesterol Quiz
Daily News Feed
  Kidney Stones Tied to Raised Heart Disease Risk in Women
  Statin Use May Reduce Parkinson's Risk, Study Says
  Blood Protein Disparity May Help Explain Blacks' Increased Heart Risk
  High Cholesterol May Be Particularly Bad for Middle-Aged Men
  New Drug Shows Promise for Type 2 Diabetes
  Health Tip: Do You Need Frequent Cholesterol Screenings?
  Statins Linked to Raised Risk of Cataracts in Study
  Statins May Not Harm Memory, Thinking After All
  Cholesterol Drugs May Boost Your Gums' Health, Too
  New Cholesterol-Lowering Drug Shows Early Promise
  Some Improvement Seen in U.S. Cholesterol Levels: CDC
  Gardening, Housework May Help Boost Your Heart Health
  Epilepsy Often Hand-in-Hand With Other Health Problems: CDC
  Metformin Won't Help Heart Patients Without Diabetes: Study
  Many Would Give Private Info to Health Insurers to Save Money
  New Guidelines May Widen Use of Statins
  Could Vaccines Someday Improve Heart Health?
  'Healthy' Obesity May Still Carry Higher Health Risks
  Gene Mutation May Explain Heart Disease Risk Among African-Americans
  'Healthy Obesity' Is a Myth, Report Says
  Troubled Launch of 'Obamacare' Tops Health News for 2013
  First Trimester Appears Crucial for Baby's Heart Health
  Taking Care of Your Heart
  Controlling Blood Pressure, Cholesterol May Not Boost Brain Health for Diabetics
  Another Win for the Mediterranean-Style Diet
  New Guidelines Aim to Lower Stroke Risk in Women
  Survey Finds Most Americans Misinformed About Heart Disease
  Low-Dose Statins Good Option for Some Heart Patients: Study
  More Americans Getting High Blood Pressure Under Control: CDC
  Kids' Checkups Should Include Cholesterol, Depression Tests, Doctors Say
  Vigorous Exertion at Work May Trigger Heart Attacks, Strokes
  Keep Your Heart Healthy
  Lack of Sleep Compounds Health Problems for Obese Teens: Study
  Almost 13 Million More Americans Could Take Statins Under New Guidelines
  Cholesterol Levels Spike During Winter Months, Study Finds
  Smoke-Free Policies May Protect the Heart
  Intensive Early Childhood Education May Boost Adult Health
  New Drug Lowers Cholesterol Beyond What Statins Can Do, Study Finds
  Heart Disease Haunted Mummies, Too
  Beans, Lentils, Peas: Your Recipe for Lower Cholesterol?
  Less Salt Use Tied to Drop in U.K. Heart Deaths
  Statin Users Eating More Bad Food Than a Decade Ago, Study Shows
  Is Healthy Obesity a Myth?
  Despite Childhood Obesity Epidemic, Few Kids Tested for Cholesterol
  Heart Patients Without Artery Plaque Buildup Still Face Risks: Study
  Cholesterol Levels May Be Linked to Breast Cancer Risk
  Childhood Sex Abuse May Be Linked to Heart Disease Risk in Women
Adult Diseases and Conditions
  Risk Factors for Stroke
  Impotence/Erectile Dysfunction