Your doctor may recommend Zetia for kinds of high cholesterol. It’s a brand-name prescription drug that can be used in adults and some children.
Specifically, Zetia can be used with a low cholesterol diet to treat:
- primary hyperlipidemia
- mixed hyperlipidemia
- homozygous familial hypercholesterolemia
- homozygous sitosterolemia
Zetia comes as a tablet that you take by mouth. It belongs to a group of drugs called intestinal cholesterol blockers (drugs that block your intestines from absorbing cholesterol).
Read on to learn more about Zetia, including its cost, dosage, and more.
Like most drugs, Zetia may cause mild or serious side effects. The lists below describe some of the more common side effects that Zetia may cause. These lists don’t include all possible side effects.
Keep in mind that side effects of a drug can depend on:
- your age
- other health conditions you have
- other medications you take
Your doctor or pharmacist can tell you more about the potential side effects of Zetia. They can also suggest ways to help reduce side effects.
Mild side effects
Here’s a short list of some of the mild side effects of Zetia that have been reported. To learn about other mild side effects, talk with your doctor or pharmacist, or read Zetia’s prescribing information.
Mild side effects of Zetia when taken by itself may include:
- infection, such as a respiratory infection or sinus infection
- pain in your arms or legs
- joint pain*
Mild side effects of many drugs may go away within a few days to a couple of weeks. But if they become bothersome, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.
* For more information about this side effect, see the “Side effect focus” section below.
Serious side effects
Serious side effects from Zetia can occur, but they aren’t common. If you have serious side effects from Zetia, call your doctor right away. But if you think you’re having a medical emergency, call 911 or your local emergency number.
Serious side effects of Zetia that have been reported include:
- muscle damage or rhabdomyolysis (breakdown of muscle tissue)
- liver damage, if taking Zetia with a statin
- allergic reaction
For more information about these side effects, see “Side effect focus” just below.
Side effect focus
Learn more about some of the side effects Zetia may cause.
It’s possible to develop increased liver enzyme levels if you’re taking Zetia with a statin medication. Increased liver enzymes may be a sign of liver damage. But taking Zetia by itself isn’t known to increase your risk of liver damage,.
Symptoms of liver damage may include:
What might help
If you’re taking Zetia with a statin, your doctor will check your liver function before you start treatment. And during treatment, they’ll recommend certain blood tests to monitor your liver health.
If you notice any symptoms of liver damage, tell your doctor right away. They’ll likely have you get other blood tests to check your liver enzyme levels. They may also recommend a different treatment option for your cholesterol.
What might help
If you have joint pain that’s severe or bothersome to you, talk with your doctor. They may recommend treatments for your symptoms, or may suggest a treatment other than Zetia.
Muscle problems, such as muscle cramps
You may develop muscle problems if you’re taking Zetia by itself or with a statin.
These problems are usually mild, such as mild pain or cramping. But muscle problems with Zetia can be severe and may lead to a serious condition called rhabdomyolysis. This refers to the breakdown of your muscle tissue.
You may have an increased risk of serious muscle problems if you:
- are taking a high dose statin
- are age 65 years or older
- have hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid gland)
- have kidney problems
- are taking other medications that cause muscle problems
What might help
During your cholesterol treatment, your doctor will monitor you for muscle problems. They may recommend that you have blood tests to make sure your cholesterol treatment isn’t causing muscle breakdown or other problems.
Be sure to tell your doctor about any muscle symptoms that you might be having. They may monitor you more often or recommend a different treatment for your condition.
Symptoms of a mild allergic reaction can include:
- skin rash
- flushing (temporary warmth, redness, or deepening of skin color)
A more severe allergic reaction is rare but possible. Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction can include swelling under your skin, typically in your eyelids, lips, hands, or feet. They can also include swelling of your tongue, mouth, or throat, which can cause trouble breathing.
Call your doctor right away if you have an allergic reaction to Zetia. But if you think you’re having a medical emergency, call 911 or your local emergency number.
Find answers to some commonly asked questions about Zetia.
How does Zetia work? And how long does it stay in your system?
Zetia is prescribed to lower cholesterol. Its mechanism of action (the way the drug works) is to block your intestines from absorbing cholesterol. Since the cholesterol isn’t being absorbed, your body can focus on getting rid of extra cholesterol in your blood.
Most of a Zetia dose is removed from your body within 22 hours. It may take up to 5 days for the drug to be completely removed from your system.
If you have more questions about how Zetia works or how long it stays in your body, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.
Are there foods to avoid while I’m taking Zetia?
Your doctor will likely recommend that you eat a diet low in cholesterol while your high cholesterol is being treated. Food does not seem to affect how Zetia is absorbed into your body or the way that the medication works. But eating a low cholesterol diet with Zetia can help keep your cholesterol levels low.
But if you are taking Zetia with a statin, you should avoid grapefruit and grapefruit juice. Grapefruit can block your body’s ability to break down the statin. This can cause the drug to build up in your body and may increase your risk of side effects.
If you have questions or concerns about foods to avoid during Zetia treatment, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.
Does Zetia cause memory loss, weight gain, hair loss, or constipation?
If you’re taking Zetia and are experiencing memory loss, weight gain, hair loss, or constipation, talk with your doctor about what may be causing your symptoms.
How does Zetia compare with statins?
Zetia and statin drugs are both prescribed to lower cholesterol. In fact, your doctor may recommend taking Zetia along with a statin. These drugs work in different ways to lower cholesterol.
Statins are usually taken as a tablet once daily, as is Zetia. Some examples of statin drugs include:
If you’re interested in learning more about how Zetia and certain statins compare, see the “Zetia vs. Lipitor” and “Zetia vs. Crestor” sections below. If you have more questions about Zetia in comparison with a statin drug, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.
Are there side effects from stopping Zetia?
If you stop taking Zetia, your cholesterol levels will likely increase. This is because Zetia works to lower cholesterol.
If you have questions or concerns, talk with your doctor or pharmacist about possible side effects.
Will I have high blood pressure, raised blood sugar, or erectile dysfunction with Zetia?
If you have high blood pressure, high blood sugar or diabetes, or ED, talk with your doctor about the best treatment options for you.
Is Zetia a blood thinner?
No, Zetia is not a blood thinner. Although this medication helps get rid of high cholesterol in your blood, it does not thin your blood.
If you’re taking warfarin (a blood thinner) and Zetia, you may have blood tests to monitor your blood’s ability to clot more often when taking warfarin by itself. Your doctor might also adjust your warfarin dose while you’re taking Zetia.
If you need to take a blood thinner, your doctor can recommend the best treatment plan for you in addition to Zetia.
Your doctor will recommend the dosage of Zetia that’s right for you. Below are commonly used dosages, but always take the dosage your doctor prescribes.
Zetia comes as a tablet that you take by mouth.
Zetia strength: 10 mg
Zetia comes in a strength of 10 milligrams (mg).
You’ll take Zetia once daily. You can take this medication with or without food.
Questions about Zetia’s dosage
- What if I miss a dose of Zetia? If you miss a dose of Zetia, take it as soon as you remember. But you should not take more than one dose of Zetia a day.
- Will I need to take Zetia long term? Yes, if Zetia works for you, your doctor will likely recommend that you take it long term.
- How long does Zetia take to work? It may take about 2 weeks for Zetia to work to lower your cholesterol. But even if the medication is working, you may not notice a difference in how you feel. It’s important to continue taking Zetia as prescribed by your doctor. Your doctor will do blood tests to monitor how well Zetia is working for you.
Your body needs some cholesterol to make essential vitamins and hormones. But having high cholesterol can increase your risk of heart disease. This can lead to serious problems such as a heart attack or stroke.
For children, Zetia is not prescribed with other cholesterol drugs. For adults, your doctor may prescribe another cholesterol-lowering drug along with Zetia.
Specifically, Zetia can be prescribed to treat:
- Primary hyperlipidemia. This is a genetic condition that causes high cholesterol. For this use, your doctor might also prescribe a statin (another kind of cholesterol-lowering drug). For primary hyperlipidemia, Zetia works to lower:
- Mixed hyperlipidemia. This is a genetic condition that causes high cholesterol and high triglycerides (a kind of fat in your blood). You’ll take Zetia with fenofibrate (Antara) for this condition. For this use, Zetia works to lower:
- total cholesterol
- LDL cholesterol
- non-HDL cholesterol
- triglycerides, if taken with fenofibrate
- Homozygous familial hypercholesterolemia (HoFH). This is a genetic condition that causes high levels of LDL cholesterol. Your doctor will prescribe either simvastatin (Zocor) or atorvastatin (Lipitor) with Zetia for HoFH. For this use, Zetia works to lower:
- total cholesterol
- LDL cholesterol
- Homozygous sitosterolemia. This is a condition in which your body can’t break down plant sterols (a kind of fat found in nuts, vegetables, and fruits). Over time, plant sterols can build up in your body, which increases your risk of heart disease. For homozygous sitosterolemia, Zetia lowers levels of:
Zetia works by blocking your intestines from absorbing cholesterol (and similar fats). Since the cholesterol isn’t being absorbed, your body can get rid of extra cholesterol in your blood. This lowers your cholesterol levels, which helps lower your risk of heart disease and related problems.
There are currently some limitations of use of Zetia:
- It’s not known if Zetia may affect how likely cardiovascular disease (a condition relating to the heart and blood vessels) or related illness is to occur.
- It’s also unknown if Zetia is an effective treatment for Fredrickson Type I, III, IV, and V dyslipidemias. These are rare forms of high cholesterol. If you have any of these conditions, talk with your doctor about treatment options.
Costs of prescription drugs can vary depending on many factors. These factors include what your insurance plan covers and which pharmacy you use. Keep in mind that the drug’s cost with Medicare or other insurance plans may vary.
Zetia is available as the generic drug ezetimibe. A generic drug is an exact copy of the active ingredient in a brand-name drug. Generics usually cost less than brand-name drugs. Talk with your doctor if you’d like to know about taking generic ezetimibe.
If you have questions about how to pay for your prescription, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. You can also visit the Zetia manufacturer’s website to see if they have support options.
You can also check out this article to learn more about saving money on prescriptions.
Your doctor will explain how you should take Zetia. They will also explain how much to take and how often. Be sure to follow their instructions.
Zetia is a tablet that’s taken by mouth once daily. You can take it with or without food.
Note: If you’re also taking a kind of medication called a bile acid sequestrant, you should take Zetia either 2 hours before or 4 hours after the other drug. Bile acid sequestrants are drugs that help your body get rid of bile acid, a waste product of cholesterol breakdown. Examples include cholestyramine (Questran) and colesevelam (Welchol).
Accessible medication containers and labels
If it’s hard for you to read the label on your prescription, tell your doctor or pharmacist. Certain pharmacies may provide medication labels that:
- have large print
- use Braille
- contain a code you can scan with a smartphone to change the text into audio
Your doctor or pharmacist may be able to recommend a pharmacy that offers these options if your current pharmacy doesn’t.
Also, if you’re having trouble opening your medication bottles, let your pharmacist know. They may be able to put Zetia in an easy-open container. Your pharmacist may also recommend tools to help make it simpler to open the drug’s container.
Taking Zetia with other drugs
Your doctor will recommend the best treatment plan for you.
Questions about taking Zetia
- Can Zetia be chewed, crushed, or split? It’s not known whether it’s safe to chew, crush, or split Zetia tablets. It’s recommended that you swallow the tablets whole. If you’re having trouble swallowing Zetia tablets, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. This article also has some tips on how to swallow pills.
- Should I take Zetia with food? You can take your dose of Zetia with or without food.
Questions for your doctor
You may have questions about Zetia and your treatment plan. It’s important to discuss all your concerns with your doctor.
Here are a few tips that might help guide your discussion:
- Before your appointment, write down questions such as:
- How will Zetia affect my body, mood, or lifestyle?
- Bring someone with you to your appointment if doing so will help you feel more comfortable.
- If you don’t understand something related to your condition or treatment, ask your doctor to explain it to you.
Remember, your doctor and other healthcare professionals are available to help you. And they want you to get the best care possible. So don’t be afraid to ask questions or offer feedback on your treatment.
Before you start treatment with Zetia, you and your doctor will talk about what to expect from Zetia treatment. You should also discuss your health, any medical conditions that you have, and other medications that you take. Your doctor will be able to help determine if Zetia is a safe treatment option for you.
Taking a medication with certain vaccines, foods, and other things can affect how the medication works. These effects are called interactions.
Before taking Zetia, be sure to tell your doctor about all medications you take, including prescription and over-the-counter kinds. Also, describe any vitamins, herbs, or supplements you use. Your doctor or pharmacist can tell you about any interactions these items may cause with Zetia.
Interactions with drugs or supplements
Zetia can interact with several kinds of drugs. These drugs include:
- fibrate drugs (another kind of cholesterol-lowering drug), such as:
- fenofibrate (Antara)
- bile acid sequestrants (drugs that help your body get rid of bile acid, a waste product of cholesterol breakdown), such as:
- cholestyramine (Questran)
- colesevelam (Welchol)
If you’re taking any of these drugs with Zetia, your doctor will likely recommend spacing out your doses from Zetia. Be sure to talk with them about how to take your medications.
This list does not contain all kinds of drugs that may interact with Zetia. Your doctor or pharmacist can tell you more about these interactions and any others that may occur with Zetia.
Zetia may not be right for you if you have certain medical conditions or other factors that affect your health. Talk with your doctor about your health history before you take Zetia. Factors to consider include those in the list below.
- Liver problems. If you have liver problems, talk with your doctor before taking Zetia. Taking Zetia with a statin (another kind of cholesterol-lowering drug) can cause liver problems, and can make existing liver problems worse. Your doctor may do some blood tests to determine if Zetia is safe for you to take.
- Allergic reaction. If you’ve had an allergic reaction to Zetia or any of its ingredients, your doctor will likely not prescribe Zetia. Ask your doctor what other medications are better options for you.
- Kidney problems. If you have kidney problems and you’re taking Zetia with a statin, you have an increased risk of muscle problems. Your doctor may monitor you more often than usual for muscle problems if you’re taking Zetia and a statin. If you develop any pain or muscle problems, your doctor may recommend a different treatment option for you.
- Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid gland). If you have hypothyroidism and you’re taking Zetia with a statin, you may have an increased risk of muscle problems. In some cases, muscle problems may be serious. Your doctor may monitor you more often than usual for muscle problems if you’re taking Zetia and a statin. They may recommend a different treatment option for you if you develop symptoms of this side effect.
See “What are Zetia’s side effects?” above for details about its side effects, including liver damage and muscle problems.
Zetia and alcohol
Zetia isn’t known to interact with alcohol. But alcohol can cause liver problems. If you’re taking Zetia with a statin, you have an increased risk of liver problems. Drinking alcohol may further increase this risk.
If you are interested in drinking alcohol while you’re taking Zetia, talk with your doctor about how much may be safe for you.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding
It’s not known if Zetia is safe to take during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.
It’s important to note that statins should not be taken during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. In some cases, your doctor may recommend that you take Zetia along with a statin.
If you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, or planning either, talk with your doctor before starting Zetia. They can recommend whether it’s safe for you.
To see a side-by-side comparison, check out this article. Also, be sure to check with your doctor about which drug is right for you.
Do not take more Zetia than your doctor prescribes. Taking more than this can lead to serious side effects.
In one case of someone who took 12 times the recommended dose of Zetia, no side effects were reported. But it’s important to follow your prescribed dosage of Zetia.
What to do in case you take too much Zetia
Call your doctor if you think you’ve taken too much Zetia. You can also call 800-222-1222 to reach the American Association of Poison Control Centers, or use its online resource. But if you have severe symptoms, immediately call 911 or your local emergency number, or go to the nearest emergency room.
Before you start taking Zetia, talk with your doctor about what to expect. You might want to ask about possible side effects, your dose, and the best way to take your Zetia. Some examples of these questions include:
- How should I manage side effects that I have with Zetia?
- Do my other medical conditions increase my risk of side effects?
- What should I do if I become pregnant while taking Zetia?
- Can my doctor lower my dose if I have side effects from this medication?
- What medical tests will I need during treatment with Zetia?
If Zetia isn’t working well enough to lower my cholesterol, can my doctor increase my dose?Anonymous
If the recommended daily dosage of Zetia isn’t managing your cholesterol well enough, your doctor may add other medications to your treatment plan. Or they may consider a different cholesterol medication instead of Zetia.
In some cases, your doctor may consider prescribing a higher dose of Zetia off label. This means the drug’s prescribed in a way that’s not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
If you have questions about your cholesterol levels or Zetia’s effectiveness, be sure to talk with your doctor.Dena Westphalen, PharmDAnswers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.
Disclaimer: Healthline has made every effort to make certain that all information is factually correct, comprehensive, and up to date. However, this article should not be used as a substitute for the knowledge and expertise of a licensed healthcare professional. You should always consult your doctor or another healthcare professional before taking any medication. The drug information contained herein is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a given drug does not indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective, or appropriate for all patients or all specific uses.