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Medications to treat high cholesterol.

For many people with high cholesterol, healthy lifestyle choices may not be enough. If this is the case, your doctor will likely prescribe medication. Your doctor will choose a medication for you based on several factors:

  • Your numbers (LDL, HDL and triglyceride levels)
  • Your age
  • Whether you’ve had a cardiovascular event such as a heart attack or stroke in the past
  • Whether you have diabetes

There are several types (or classes) of medications available to help reduce cholesterol levels. Here is an overview of commonly prescribed classes and how they work in the body.1


These are the most commonly prescribed medications for high cholesterol. They work in the liver to prevent the production of cholesterol and limit the amount of cholesterol circulating in the blood. They are most effective at lowering LDL cholesterol levels, but may also help to raise HDL levels and lower triglycerides.

Statins have side effects, but most are mild and go away after your body adjusts. There are many medications in this class, including generics, so your doctor may have you try a different medication if you experience side effects.

Selective cholesterol absorption inhibitors.

These are newer medications that work by preventing the intestines from absorbing cholesterol. They are effective at lowering LDL levels and have a modest effect on HDL and triglyceride levels.


These medications bind to bile, an acid made from cholesterol in the liver. Because the medication makes the bile inactive, the liver responds by making more bile. The more bile your liver makes, the more cholesterol it uses up, meaning there is less cholesterol circulating in your blood.

Lipid-lowering therapies.

These medications work to lower the levels of fats in the blood. They are effective at lowering triglyceride levels and may have some effect on LDL and HDL cholesterol levels. Some of these medications are derived from fish oil and can’t be taken by people with seafood allergies.

Talk to your doctor about which medication is right for you. If you have questions or concerns about side effects, your CVS Specialty CareTeam is available to help.

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1American Heart Association® Website. Accessed October 9, 2018.