Brand names: Zetia
Zetia is a new kind of cholesterol-lowering drug. The older cholesterol-lowering drugs called "statins" reduce cholesterol by interfering with its production in the body. Zetia acts by diminishing the absorption of dietary cholesterol through the intestines.
Zetia may be taken alone or with a statin drug. Because the two drugs fight cholesterol in different ways, the Zetia/statin combination has a greater impact than either drug alone.
Cholesterol—especially "bad" LDL cholesterol—promotes clogged arteries, increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke. "Good" HDL cholesterol helps to prevent clogged arteries. Zetia lowers the bad cholesterol and raises the good. It also lowers total cholesterol readings and reduces levels of triglycerides (fats in the blood).
Cholesterol-lowering drugs are typically prescribed for people who either have heart disease or are in danger of developing it. For people at high risk of heart disease, current guidelines call for considering drug therapy when LDL levels reach 130. For people at lower risk, the cut-off is 160. For those at little or no risk, it's 190.
Doctors usually prescribe cholesterol-lowering drugs only after changes in lifestyle have failed to bring cholesterol down to a healthy level. These changes include following a diet low in fat and cholesterol and high in fiber, shedding excess weight, and getting more exercise. It's important to remember that drug therapy is a supplement to—not a substitute for—these other measures. To get the full benefit of the medication, you need to stick to the diet and exercise program recommended by your doctor.
You can take Zetia with or without food. If the doctor has also prescribed a statin drug, you can take Zetia at the same time. If you are also taking colestipol, cholestyramine, or colesevelam, take Zetia at least 2 hours before or 4 hours after taking the other medication.
Side effects cannot be anticipated. If any develop or change in intensity, tell your doctor as soon as possible. Only your doctor can determine if it is safe to continue using Zetia.
Other side effects that occur when Zetia is taken with a statin drug include chest pain, dizziness, headache, muscle pain, and upper respiratory infection.
Certain allergic reactions such as hives have also occurred.
If Zetia causes an allergic reaction, you'll be unable to use it. Combined therapy with Zetia and a statin drug should be avoided if you have a liver condition or are pregnant or nursing.
Zetia is not recommended for people with moderate to severe liver disease, or for children under 10.
Do not combine Zetia with the cholesterol-lowering drugs called fibrates, including Lopid and Tricor. Check with your doctor before combining Zetia with cyclosporine.
Zetia should be taken during pregnancy only if its benefits outweigh the potential risk to the baby. If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, check with your doctor immediately.
Statin drugs pose a definite risk to the baby, so you should never add a statin drug to Zetia therapy during pregnancy.
It's not known whether Zetia makes its way into breast milk. The drug is recommended only if its benefits are thought to outweigh the potential risk.
The recommended dose is 10 milligrams once a day.
There is no experience with Zetia overdose. However, any medication taken in excess can have serious consequences. If you suspect an overdose, seek medical attention immediately.