Zetia vs Statins – Uses, Side Effects, Differences


It is the brand name of a drug called ezetimibe, a lipid-lowering compound that is used to treat high LDL cholesterol levels. It works by decreasing the absorption of cholesterol from the intestine.

The FDA first approved this medication in 2002.


It is used for treating high LDL cholesterol levels. Cholesterol is found in some foods (especially meat, dairy products, and eggs) and is naturally produced by the human body. Its function is important throughout everyday life.

However, excessively high levels of LDL cholesterol (also referred to as the bad cholesterol) collect in the walls of arteries, leading to a condition called atherosclerosis (also known as hardening of the arteries).

People with this serious condition are in turn vulnerable to heart attack, heart failure, and stroke (cerebrovascular accident). In addition, plaque can block the flow of blood to arteries that supply blood to the stomach, arms, feet, and legs. This condition is called peripheral arterial disease.

Note – this medication can lower LDL and total cholesterol but has little effect on HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol). More importantly, it doesn’t treat atherosclerosis.


The usual recommended dose is 10 mg daily, taken once per day. It can be taken without or with a meal.

It is important to continue the use of this medication even if you feel well. Furthermore, if you are taking a bile acid sequestrant (like – colestipol or cholestyramine), take this medication at least 4 hours after or 2 hours before taking the bile acid sequestrant.

Side Effects And Precautions Of Ezetimibe

Common side effects may include:

  • a sore throat;
  • joint or muscle pain;
  • diarrhea;
  • sinus pain;
  • pain in a leg or arm;
  • stuffy nose.

Rare side effects may include:

  • chest pain;
  • red skin rash;
  • unusual muscle weakness;
  • fever;
  • yellowing of the skin or eyes;
  • nausea and vomiting;
  • clay-colored stools;
  • fast heart rate;
  • dark urine;
  • headaches;
  • loss of appetite;
  • kidney failure;
  • severe pain in the upper stomach spreading to the back;
  • stomach pain.


They are a group of drugs used to treat high LDL and total cholesterol. They work by blocking the action of an enzyme in the liver that is required for making cholesterol.


They are usually prescribed for people with high cholesterol to lower their total and LDL cholesterol, hence, reducing their risk of a stroke or heart attack. Too much LDL cholesterol in the blood can cause a buildup of plaque on the walls of the arteries which can cause the arteries to harden or narrow (atherosclerosis).

These medications can’t cure atherosclerosis, however, they can help prevent them from getting worse.

Types of statins include:

  • Vytorin (a combination of ezetimibe and simvastatin);
  • Lescol (fluvastatin);
  • Zocor (simvastatin);
  • Crestor (rosuvastatin);
  • Pravachol (pravastatin);
  • Lipitor (atorvastatin).

The best-selling statin is atorvastatin (trade name – Lipitor), which in 2003 became the best-selling medication in history.

Side Effects And Precautions

Common side effects may include:

  • an increased risk of type 2 diabetes;
  • nosebleeds;
  • muscle and joint pain;
  • flatulence;
  • indigestion;
  • a sore throat;
  • diarrhea or constipation;
  • problems with the digestive system;
  • feeling sick;
  • headaches;
  • a runny nose (non-allergic rhinitis).

Rare side effects may include:

  • memory problems;
  • being sick;
  • ringing in the ears;
  • feeling unusually tired;
  • an itchy red rash;
  • unexplained weight gain;
  • acne;
  • loss of appetite;
  • pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas);
  • hepatitis (inflammation of the liver);
  • blurred vision;
  • tingling in the nerve endings of the hands and feet;
  • dizziness;
  • difficulty sleeping.

These drugs may interact with:

  • some immunosuppressant medications, like – cyclosporine (Neoral, Gengraf, Sandimmune);
  • some antifungal and antibiotic medications, like – itraconazole (Onmel, Sporanox) and clarithromycin (Biaxin);
  • protease inhibitors, like – ritonavir (Norvir) and saquinavir (Invirase);
  • Gemfibrozil (Lopid);
  • medication for irregular heart rhythms, like – Amiodarone (Pacerone, Cordarone).

Before using this medication, tell your healthcare professional if you:

  • have had, or have a muscle disorder;
  • have had muscular side effects when taking a similar drug in the past;
  • have an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism);
  • drink large amounts of alcoholic beverages;
  • have previously had a stroke;
  • have severe lung disease;
  • are trying to get pregnant, you are already pregnant, or you are breastfeeding;
  • have liver or kidney problems;
  • have had an allergic reaction to any other medicines in the past.

Zetia vs Statins – Which Is Better For Lowering LDL Cholesterol?

Zetia (Ezetimibe) belongs to a group of medicines called cholesterol absorption inhibitors that block the absorption of cholesterol from food in the digestive tract.

Statins are a class of drugs that lower the level of total and LDL cholesterol in the blood by blocking the enzyme (hydroxy-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A reductase) in the liver that is responsible for making cholesterol.

Ezetimibe is usually prescribed as 2nd line therapy for patients unable to achieve target LDL and total cholesterol levels on statins alone or if they are statin-intolerant patients. According to research, adding Ezetimibe to statin medicine reduced LDL levels by an average of 25%.

However, statins are still the most cost-effective approach to atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease risk reduction (after lifestyle changes). The real problem is that both these medications have plenty of side effects and don’t treat atherosclerosis.

7 Ways to Lower LDL And Total Cholesterol Naturally

#1 Nutrition

Limit or completely avoid your intake of foods that have trans fats, saturated fats, hormones, antibiotics, and dietary cholesterol. These foods include – meat, dairy products, eggs, and foods that contain vegetable oils. Top sources of dietary cholesterol include organ meats, egg yolks, and shellfish.

#2 Lose Weight

Maintain a healthy waist girth: less than 35 inches in women and less than 40 inches in men.

#3 Don’t Smoke

Quit smoking tobacco and avoid secondhand smoke.

#4 Omega-3

Eat foods rich in omega 3 essential fatty acids. They can help increase HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. The best source of omega-3 fatty acids is flax seeds.

#5 Garlic

It may help reduce your blood cholesterol levels, lower your blood pressure, and slow the progress of the hardening of the arteries, according to a 2011 study published in the Science Daily.

#6 Orange Juice

Drinking fresh orange juice regularly can be a simple and effective way for reducing blood cholesterol levels because it is rich in folate (also called vitamin B9 – different than folic acid, its synthetic version) and vitamin C.

#7 Dietary Fiber

Consume foods rich in fiber, especially soluble fiber because it binds to cholesterol in the digestive system causing it to be removed from the human body. Foods rich in fiber include – sesame seeds, oat bran, chia seeds, lentils, flax seeds, chickpeas, red kidney beans, sweet potatoes, prunes, elderberries, cauliflower, and broccoli.

Images credit – Shutterstock & Getty

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