Is It Safe To Take Cholesterol-Lowering Medications For More Than Five Years? What About 10 Or 20 Years?

Question: Is it safe to take cholesterol-lowering medications for more than five years? What about 10 or 20 years?

Answer: So, your doctor's had you on this medicine for three years now, and you're beginning to wonder, you know, what are the long term side effects of this thing? Is it going to turn my hair gray, or is it going to make my muscles shrivel or, you know, can I take this thing forever?

And the answer is that, so far, we've had very good results with drugs called statins and drugs called niacin in terms of long-term use. And also the drugs that are classified as fibrates have had good long-term experience.

So, there doesn't seem to be a time-dependent adverse side effect of these medicines, and the good news is that the longer you take them, the longer you sustain your risk reduction associated with modifying your cholesterol.

I could tell you a little story about our own experience.

We have had a group of patients that started in 1983 taking a statin drug called lovastatin, and we continued to follow about 100 of these patients who continued to take lovastatin plus niacin plus ezetimibe at this point.

So, they're taking three cholesterol-lowering drugs, and they've been taking this combination of triple-drug therapy for, now, 18 years -- I'm sorry -- it'd be 20 years plus. So, we feel that these are safe drugs.

We feel that the one characteristic of patients who take these drugs for a long period of time is they don't have heart attacks, and they don't have heart disease -- that's been our experience with this group of patients.

They keep coming back in. Their father died at age 42, and they're still cranking along at 65 or 70, so our impression is that these drugs in the long haul, at least the ones that we're using, which I've mentioned the name of, are actually quite safe for long periods of time, and, in fact, reduce your risk for a long period of time.

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