Nicotinic acid

Nicotinic acid (Niacin) is a water-soluble B vitamin that lowers bad cholesterol and increases good cholesterol.

  • Benefits. Nicotinic acid reduces LDL levels by 5 to 15 percent, and up to 25 percent in some people.
  • Possible side effects. Nicotinic acid may cause flushing, itchiness and upset stomach. Your doctor must monitor your liver function if you're taking this drug. Don't use it if you have diabetes because it can raise blood sugar levels.


Fibrates, such as gemfibrozil (Lopid) and fenofibrate (Tricor), can raise good cholesterol if you have low HDL levels.

  • Benefits. Fibrates can improve HDL levels.
  • Possible side effects. Among all cholesterol-lowering medications, fibrates are the least effective at lowering bad cholesterol. They can also cause muscle pain when prescribed with statins, as well as digestive problems.

Injectable medications

A new class of drugs can help the liver absorb more LDL cholesterol — which lowers the amount of cholesterol circulating in your blood. Alirocumab (Praluent) and evolocumab (Repatha) are approved for people who have a genetic condition that causes very high levels of LDL. The drug also may be used if you have had heart attacks or strokes and need additional lowering of your LDL levels. The drug is administered by injection at home one or two times a month.

  • Benefits. When taken with a statin, this drug may further reduce LDL cholesterol.
  • Possible side effects. Common side effects include itching, swelling, pain or bruising at the injection site. Back pain, rash, hives, swelling of the nasal passages and flu also may occur.

Your doctor will recommend a specific choice of medication or combination of medications based on a variety of factors, such as your individual risk factors, your age, your current health and possible side effects. Your doctor will also monitor your medication regularly and recommend lifestyle changes that will allow you to take less medication and lower your risk of heart disease.

Sept. 03, 2015 See more In-depth