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Why is this medication prescribed?
Ezetimibe is used together with lifestyle changes (diet, weight-loss, exercise) to reduce the amount of cholesterol (a fat-like substance) and other fatty substances in the blood. It may be used alone or in combination with an HMG-CoA reductase inhibitor (statin). Ezetimibe is in a class of medications called cholesterol-lowering medications. It works by preventing the absorption of cholesterol in the intestine.
Buildup of cholesterol and fats along the walls of the blood vessels (a process known as atherosclerosis) decreases blood flow, which decreases the oxygen supply to the heart, brain, and other parts of the body. Lowering blood levels of cholesterol and fats may help reduce this buildup and may decrease your chances of developing heart conditions such as angina (chest pain), strokes, and heart attacks. Results of a clinical study that compared people who took ezetimibe and simvastatin with people who took simvastatin alone found that although the group of people taking ezetimibe and simvastatin had lower amounts of cholesterol in the blood, there was no difference between the two groups in the amount of cholesterol and fat buildup on the insides of the blood vessels in the neck. It is not currently understood why the additional lowering of cholesterol levels in the blood did not lead to a greater decrease in cholesterol and fat buildup along the walls of the blood vessels in people taking ezetimibe and simvastatin. Further studies are underway to compare treatment with ezetimibe and simvastatin to treatment with simvastatin alone to see if there is a difference in the risk of developing heart disease. Talk to your doctor if you have questions about the risks and benefits of treating increased amounts of cholesterol in your blood with ezetimibe and other medications.
In addition to taking a cholesterol-lowering medication, making certain changes in your daily habits can also lower your blood cholesterol levels. You should eat a diet that is low in saturated fat and cholesterol (see SPECIAL DIETARY); exercise 30 minutes on most, if not all, days; and lose weight if you are overweight.
How should this medicine be used?
Ezetimibe comes as a tablet to take by mouth. It is usually taken once a day with or without food. To help you remember to take ezetimibe, take it around the same time every day. Follow the directions on your prescription label carefully, and ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain any part you do not understand. Take ezetimibe exactly as directed. Do not take more or less of it or take it more often than prescribed by your doctor.
Continue to take ezetimibe even if you feel well. Do not stop taking ezetimibe without talking to your doctor.
Other uses for this medicine
This medication may be prescribed for other uses; ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.
What special precautions should I follow?
Before taking ezetimibe,
- Tell your doctor and pharmacist if you are allergic to ezetimibe or any other medications.
- Tell your doctor and pharmacist what prescription and nonprescription medications, vitamins, nutritional supplements, and herbal products you are taking. Be sure to mention any of the following: anticoagulants (”blood thinners”) such as warfarin (Coumadin); cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune); fenofibrate (TriCor); and gemfibrozil (Lopid). Your doctor may need to change the doses of your medications or monitor you carefully for side effects.
- If you are taking cholestyramine (Questran), colesevelam (WellChol), or colestipol (Colestid), take it 4 hours before or 2 hours after ezetimibe.
- Tell your doctor if you have or have ever had liver disease.
- Tell your doctor if you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breast-feeding. If you become pregnant while taking ezetimibe, call your doctor.
What special dietary instructions should I follow?
Eat a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet. Be sure to follow all exercise and dietary recommendations made by your doctor or dietitian. You can also visit the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) website for additional dietary information at http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/chol/chol_tlc.pdf.
What should I do if I forget a dose?
Take the missed dose as soon as you remember it. However, if it is almost time for the next dose, skip the missed dose and continue your regular dosing schedule. Do not take a double dose to make up for a missed one.
What side effects can this medication cause?
Ezetimibe may cause side effects. Tell your doctor if any of these symptoms are severe or do not go away:
- Sore throat
- Runny nose
- Joint pain
Some side effects can be serious. The following symptoms are uncommon, but if you experience any of them, call your doctor immediately:
- Difficulty breathing or swallowing
- Swelling of the face, throat, tongue, lips, eyes, hands, feet, ankles, or lower legs
- Upset stomach
- Extreme tiredness
- Unusual bleeding or bruising
- Lack of energy
- Loss of appetite
- Pain in the upper right part of the stomach
- Yellowing of the skin or eyes
- Flu-like symptoms
- Muscle pain or weakness
- Pale or fatty stools
- Chest pain
Ezetimibe may cause other side effects. Call your doctor if you have any unusual problems while taking this medication.
If you experience a serious side effect, you or your doctor may send a report to the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program online (http://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch) or by phone (1-800-332-1088).
What should I know about storage and disposal of this medication?
Keep this medication in the container it came in, tightly closed, and out of reach of children. Store it at room temperature and away from excess heat and moisture (not in the bathroom).
Unneeded medications should be disposed of in special ways to ensure that pets, children, and other people cannot consume them. However, you should not flush this medication down the toilet. Instead, the best way to dispose of your medication is through a medicine take-back program. Talk to your pharmacist or contact your local garbage/recycling department to learn about take-back programs in your community. See the FDA’s Safe Disposal of Medicines website (http://goo.gl/c4Rm4p) for more information if you do not have access to a take-back program.
It is important to keep all medication out of sight and reach of children as many containers (such as weekly pill minders and those for eye drops, creams, patches, and inhalers) are not child-resistant and young children can open them easily. To protect young children from poisoning, always lock safety caps and immediately place the medication in a safe location – one that is up and away and out of their sight and reach. http://www.upandaway.org
In case of emergency/overdose
In case of overdose, call the poison control helpline at 1-800-222-1222. Information is also available online at https://www.poisonhelp.org/help. If the victim has collapsed, had a seizure, has trouble breathing, or can’t be awakened, immediately call emergency services at 911.
What other information should I know?
Keep all appointments with your doctor and the laboratory. Your doctor will order certain lab tests before and during treatment to check your body’s response to ezetimibe.
Do not let anyone else take your medication. Ask your pharmacist any questions you have about refilling your prescription.
It is important for you to keep a written list of all of the prescription and nonprescription (over-the-counter) medicines you are taking, as well as any products such as vitamins, minerals, or other dietary supplements. You should bring this list with you each time you visit a doctor or if you are admitted to a hospital. It is also important information to carry with you in case of emergencies.