Drug Therapy for Cholesterol

Updated:Feb 26,2014

Man Talking to DoctorIf you are concerned about preventing or treating unhealthy cholesterol levels, you should make diet and lifestyle changes – whether or not your doctor prescribes a cholesterol medication. Your doctor may want you to try diet and lifestyle changes first, and then consider medication if those changes alone don't get you to your cholesterol goals. Depending on your LDL (bad) cholesterol level and your other risk factors for cardiovascular disease, your doctor may decide that you need to start drug therapy right away, at the same time as you're starting to make lifestyle changes.

Know your levels and your other risk factors and work with your healthcare professionals to develop the treatment and prevention plan that's right for you.

Cholesterol drugs illustrationCholesterol-Lowering Drugs

Various medications can lower blood cholesterol levels. They may be prescribed individually or in combination with other drugs. Your doctor will determine the best drug or combination for you. View an animation to see how cholesterol drugs work.

*Some of the major types of commonly prescribed cardiovascular medications are summarized in this section. For your information and reference, we have included generic names as well as major trade names to help you identify what you may be taking; however, the AHA is not recommending or endorsing any specific products. If your prescription medication isn't on this list, remember that your healthcare provider and pharmacist are your best sources of information. It's important to discuss all of the drugs you take with your doctor and understand their desired effects and possible side effects. Never stop taking a medication and never change your dose or frequency without first consulting your doctor.

*Some cholesterol-lowering medications may interact with grapefruit, grapefruit juice, pomegranate and pomegranate juice. Please talk to your health care provider about any potential risks.

Learn more about cholesterol drugs

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).

Clinical Trials
Clinical trials are scientific studies that determine if a possible new medical advance can help people and whether it has harmful side effects. Find answers to common questions about clinical trials in our Guide to Understanding Clinical Trials.

This content was last reveiwed on 12/10/2012.


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