Cholesterol Absorption Inhibitors

Two organs primarily control cholesterol levels in your blood: the liver, which produces cholesterol and bile acids (used to digest fats), and the intestine, which absorbs cholesterol both from food and from the bile, While statins primarily lower cholesterol by preventing its production in the liver, a new class of drug called cholesterol absorption inhibitors lowers cholesterol by preventing it from being absorbed in the intestine, The first approved drug in this class, Zetia (ezetimibe), hit American markets in 2002.

By itself, Zetia reduced cholesterol about 18 percent in studies, When the drug was paired with statin drugs, cholesterol levels dropped 25 percent more than with statins alone. That’s important, since on average only 60 percent. of people who take statins get their cholesterol levels as jow as they should. In one study just 19 percent of people taking statins alone reached their cholesterol goal; adding Zetia increased that figure to 72 percent. “Taking 10 milligrams of Zetia with a statin is equivalent to tripling the dose of statins,” says Antonio Gotto, .Ir., M_D., dean at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City. Zetia also has fewer side effects than statins. For instance, it doesn appear to cause any muscle problems. The treatment doesn’t come cheaply, however; the wholesale cost for a 30-day supply is $57.90. That’s on top of the cost of the statin. Merck & Co., the maker of the statin Zocor, is testing a pill that combines the two.

Side effects: The most common side effects include back, stomach, and joint pain.

Warnings: Not recommended for use in conjunction with fibrates.

Recommended dose: Zctia is administered as a once-daily tablet in a single 10- milligram strength and is taken with or without food.

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