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All about: Ezetimibe

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Generic name: Ezetimibe
Brand names: Zetia

Why is Ezetimibe prescribed?

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.

Most important fact about Ezetimibe

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.

How should you take Ezetimibe?

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 Colestid, Questran, or WelChol, take Zetia at least 2 hours before or 4 hours after taking the other medication.

--If you miss a dose...

Take the forgotten dose as soon as you remember. However, if it is almost time for your next dose, skip the one you missed and return to your regular schedule. Do not take two doses at once.

--Storage instructions...

Store at room temperature. Protect from moisture.

What side effects may occur?

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.

  • More common side effects may include:
    Abdominal pain, back pain, diarrhea, joint pain, sinusitis

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.

Why should Ezetimibe not be prescribed?

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.

Special warnings about Ezetimibe

Zetia is not recommended for people with moderate to severe liver disease, or for children under 10.

Possible food and drug interactions when taking Ezetimibe

Do not combine Zetia with the cholesterol-lowering drugs called fibrates, including Lopid and Tricor. Check with your doctor before combining Zetia with cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune).

Special information if you are pregnant or breastfeeding

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.

Recommended dosage

The recommended dose is 10 milligrams once a day.

Overdosage

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.

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