I Have Been Diagnosed With Chronic Liver Disease. Can I Continue Taking My Cholesterol-Lowering Medication?

Question: I have been diagnosed with chronic liver disease. Can I continue taking my cholesterol-lowering medication?

Answer: So your doc says you have liver disease, and that was a different doctor than the one that gave you your cholesterol medicine. So what do you do? Maybe I better stop taking this cholesterol medicine, because my cholesterol doctor says sometimes these medicines can cause liver problems.

The key question is that we need to investigate a little further. You need to know, and your doctor needs to know -- your cholesterol doctor needs to know -- what kind of liver disease you have. Typically, you might have hepatitis A, which you got from eating something in a restaurant, and it lasts for a few months, and eventually it goes away.

Or you may have more chronic forms of hepatitis that don't go away, hepatitis B and C, or you may have another kind of liver disease altogether. And the risk that the cholesterol drugs pose can be described as contributing to an existing liver condition or causing a new liver condition.

So, if, in fact, your liver diagnosis is because you're taking the cholesterol medicines, then stopping them would be helpful -- would actually be required or necessary.

If, in fact, you have another kind of liver disease, and you happen to be taking cholesterol medicines, you can actually continue taking the cholesterol medicine, as long as it doesn't have an adverse impact on the underlying liver condition.

So all of these things require blood tests, clarifying the actual nature of the diagnosis, what kind of liver disease you have, and then, in some cases, just a test to see if your medication actually worsens the liver condition. If that's the case, then you need to stop or reduce the dose.

But on your own, don't stop the medicine right away, but do quickly contact your cholesterol doctor, and talk to your liver doctor, and make sure that everybody is on the same page, and you're not increasing your risk of liver complications.

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