Adverse effects of hypolipidaemic drugs

Med Toxicol. 1987 Jan-Feb;2(1):10-32. doi: 10.1007/BF03259858.


Cholestyramine, colestipol, clofibrate, gemfibrozil, nicotinic acid (niacin), probucol, neomycin, and dextrothyroxine are the most commonly used drugs in the treatment of hyperlipoproteinaemic disorders. While adverse reaction data are available for all of them, definitive data regarding the frequency and severity of potential adverse effects from well-controlled trials using large numbers of patients (greater than 1000) are available only for cholestyramine, clofibrate, nicotinic acid and dextrothyroxine. In adult patients treated with cholestyramine, gastrointestinal complaints, especially constipation, abdominal pain and unpalatability are most frequently observed. Continued administration along with dietary manipulation (e.g. addition of dietary fibre) and/or stool softeners results in diminished complaints during long term therapy. Large doses of cholestyramine (greater than 32 g/day) may be associated with malabsorption of fat-soluble vitamins. Most significantly, osteomalacia and, on rare occasions, haemorrhagic diathesis are reported with cholestyramine impairment of vitamin D and vitamin K absorption, respectively. Paediatric patients have been reported to experience hyperchloraemic metabolic acidosis or gastrointestinal obstruction. Concurrent administration of acidic drugs may result in their reduced bioavailability. Serious adverse reactions to clofibrate will probably limit its role in the future. Of particular concern are ventricular arrhythmias, induction of cholelithiasis and cholecystitis, and the potential for promoting gastrointestinal malignancy which far outweigh the reported benefits in preventing new or recurrent myocardial infarction, cardiovascular death and overall death. Patients with renal disease are particularly prone to myositis, secondary to alterations in protein binding and impaired renal excretion of clofibrate. Drug interactions with coumarin anticoagulants and sulphonylurea compounds may produce bleeding episodes and hypoglycaemia, respectively. Nicotinic acid produces frequent adverse effects, but they are usually not serious, tend to decrease with time, and can be managed easily. Dermal and gastrointestinal reactions are most common. Truncal and facial flushing are reported in 90 to 100% of treated patients in large clinical trials. Significant elevations of liver enzymes, serum glucose, and serum uric acid are occasionally seen with nicotinic acid therapy. Liver enzyme elevations are more common in patients given large dosage increases over short periods of time, and in patients treated with sustained release formulations.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Drug Interactions
  • Humans
  • Hypolipidemic Agents / adverse effects*


  • Hypolipidemic Agents