Cholesterol absorption inhibitors

What does this medication do?
Ezetimibe is the only cholesterol absorption inhibitor currently available in Canada. This drug helps lower the levels of total and LDL-cholesterol in your blood. It is only prescribed when your cholesterol cannot be controlled with proper diet and physical activity. It should always be used as part of a healthy living plan, which includes eating a lower-fat, low-cholesterol diet and engaging in regular physical activity.

How does it work?
It works by preventing your body from absorbing and storing cholesterol in your liver and improving the way cholesterol is cleared from your blood.

How should I take it?
This medication comes in one dosage and it is usually combined with a cholesterol-lowering medication generically known as a statin.

What if I miss a dose?
If you miss a dose of this medicine, your doctor will likely tell you to take it as soon as possible. It is important not take more than one dose per day. Always follow your doctor's advice.

What else can I do?
Your doctor will usually prescribe this medication along with a diet that is lower in saturated and trans fats, sugar and dietary cholesterol. This is one of the most important things you can do to make sure your medication will work. Cholesterol absorption inhibitors are less effective in people who are considerably overweight, so your doctor may advise you to achieve and maintain a healthy weight by eating a healthy diet and being physically active. Talk to your healthcare practitioner before beginning any weight-loss plan. You may also wish to try our free, online Healthy Weight Action Plan to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Learn more about cholesterol.

What if I am taking other medicines?
Always tell your doctor and pharmacist about any other medication you are taking including prescription, non-prescription, over-the-counter or natural health products (vitamins and minerals, herbal remedies, homeopathic medicines, traditional medicines such as traditional Chinese medicines, probiotics and other products such as amino acids and essential fatty acids).

What else should I tell my doctor?
Tell your doctor and pharmacist if you are allergic to cholesterol absorption inhibitors or if you experience any side effects from the medication (see below).

What are some common side effects?
Ezetimibe may cause some side effects including headache, diarrhea, dizziness, sore throat, runny nose, sneezing, joint and muscle pain.

Lifestyle changes
Eating a healthy diet that is lower in fat, especially saturated and trans fats, being smoke free, limiting alcohol use, being physically active and reducing stress are also important to lowering the risk of heart disease. Talk to your healthcare practitioner about how you can achieve these lifestyle changes.

For more information
Health Canada provides health and medical information to help Canadians maintain and improve their health. Learn more about Safe Use of MedicinesSafety and Effectiveness of Generic Drugs and Buying Drugs over the Internet.

Drug Product Database provides information about drugs approved for use in Canada.

MedEffect Canada provides safety alerts, public health advisories, warnings and recalls.

Your ministry of health also provides useful health resources in your province or territory. For example, Ontario has a MedsCheck program providing free pharmacist consultations on safety use of drugs. British Columbia has a Senior Healthcare webpage providing information about important health programs.  

Last modified: July 2011
Last reviewed: July 2011