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Cholesterol Lowering Drugs

E.g. Simvastatin, pravastatin and atorvastatin.

What do Cholesterol Lowering Drugs do?

How do I take them?

Side effects

What do Cholesterol Lowering Drugs do?

Cholesterol is a type of fat, which is made by your body and also absorbed from certain foods.  Everyone has cholesterol in their blood.  It is impossible to tell how much you have without a blood test.  If you have too much cholesterol in your blood it can stick to the sides of your artery walls and eventually cause narrowing or blockage of your arteries.  This increases your risk of having angina, a heart attack or a stroke. If you suffer from angina, have had a heart attack, bypass graft operation or a stroke your doctor should have prescribed a cholesterol lowering medicine.  If you are not on any medicine to lower your cholesterol, ask your doctor or practice nurse about this.

The most commonly used medicines to lower cholesterol are called "statins" (for example, simvastatin, pravastatin or atorvastatin).  Statins reduce the amount of cholesterol that your liver can make.  Another group of medicines occasionally prescribed to lower cholesterol are called "fibrates" (for example, clofibrate or bezafibrate).  The fibrates are usually only used if you experience severe side effects to the statins or if a statin on its own is not effective.

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How do I take them?

  • You usually take medicines to lower cholesterol once each day and they are usually more effective if taken just before bedtime (because your body makes cholesterol at night while you are asleep).  The only exception to this is atorvastatin, which can be taken at any time of the day.  Fibrates may need to be taken more than once a day, but your doctor will tell you if this is necessary.  If you have difficulty remembering your night time tablets please discuss this with your doctor or pharmacist.

  • If you are taking simvastatin you should avoid eating grapefruit or drinking grapefruit juice.

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Side effects

Cholesterol lowering drugs don't usually cause problems.  The most common side effects are stomach upsets such as sickness, constipation, diarrhea and flatulence.  These side effects generally disappear after a week or so.  Very occasionally cholesterol lowering drugs can cause liver or muscle problems so if you have any unusual muscle pain you should see your doctor as soon as possible. 

If you think you have any side effects from this medicine be sure to mention them to your GP, practice nurse or pharmacist.

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