Can Fibrate Drugs Lower Cholesterol?

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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What are fibrates?

Doctor's response

The fibrates are cholesterol-lowering drugs that are primarily effective in lowering triglycerides and, to a lesser extent, in increasing HDL-cholesterol levels.

Gemfibrozil (brand name: LOPID), the fibrate most widely used in the United States, can be very effective for patients with high triglyceride levels. However, it is not very effective for lowering the LDL-cholesterol. As a result, it is used less often than other drugs in patients with heart disease for whom LDL-cholesterol lowering is the main goal of treatment.

Gemfibrozil therapy by itself is not recommended by the Food and Drug Administration for patients with heart disease. Fibrates are usually given in two daily doses 30 minutes before the morning and evening meals. The reductions in triglycerides generally are in the range of 20 to 50 percent with increases in HDL-cholesterol of 10 to 15 percent.

Fibrates are generally well tolerated by most patients. Gastrointestinal complaints are the most common side effect and fibrates appear to increase the likelihood of developing cholesterol gallstones. Fibrates can increase the effect of medications that thin the blood, and this should be monitored closely by your physician.

Thank you for your question.

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Reviewed on 1/11/2018

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