Cholesterol Home > Zetia

Zetia is commonly used for the treatment of several conditions, including high cholesterol and a rare genetic condition called sitosterolemia. Part of a class of drugs called cholesterol absorption inhibitors, it works by blocking the absorption of cholesterol from foods that you eat. The medication comes as a tablet taken once a day, with or without food. Common side effects include diarrhea, joint pain, and sinus infections.

What Is Zetia?

Zetia® (ezetimibe) is a prescription medication used for treating high cholesterol. It is part of a class of drugs called cholesterol absorption inhibitors.

Who Makes It?

Zetia is manufactured by both Merck and Schering-Plough.

What Is Zetia Used For?

This medication has been licensed to treat several conditions, such as:
  • High cholesterol (hypercholesterolemia), used either alone or in combination with other cholesterol medications
  • A rare genetic condition called sitosterolemia.
(Click Zetia Uses for more information, including possible off-labels uses.)

How Does It Work?

Zetia is part of a class of drugs called cholesterol absorption inhibitors. It works in the digestive tract by blocking the absorption of cholesterol from things that you eat. It is unique in that it works just at the "brush border" of the small intestine. Because less cholesterol is delivered from the digestive tract to the liver (which depletes the liver's stores of cholesterol), the liver reacts by taking cholesterol out from the blood, helping to reduce cholesterol levels in the blood.
Because of the drug's effects, the following forms of cholesterol and fats are decreased:
The medication has little effect on HDL cholesterol ("good" cholesterol) by itself.
If Zetia is prescribed, it should be used as a way to lower cholesterol. However, anyone with high cholesterol should also make certain lifestyle changes, including eating a low-cholesterol diet, getting regular exercise, and losing weight (see BMI Calculator to find your ideal weight). This will decrease your risk of heart disease and the amount of medicine you need to take.
(Click High Cholesterol Risk to see a list of risk factors that may affect your cholesterol level and some general guidelines about ideal LDL cholesterol levels.)
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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