Why is this medication prescribed?
Cholestyramine is used with diet changes (restriction of cholesterol and fat intake) to reduce the amount of cholesterol and certain fatty substances in your blood. Accumulation of cholesterol and fats along the walls of your arteries (a process known as atherosclerosis) decreases blood flow and, therefore, the oxygen supply to your heart, brain, and other parts of your body. Lowering your blood level of cholesterol and fats may help to prevent heart disease, angina (chest pain), strokes, and heart attacks.
This medication is sometimes prescribed for other uses; ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.
How should this medicine be used?
Cholestyramine comes in a chewable bar and in a powder that must be mixed with fluids or food. It usually is taken two to four times a day. Follow the directions on your prescription label carefully, and ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain any part you do not understand. Take cholestyramine exactly as directed. Do not take more or less of it or take it more often than prescribed by your doctor.
Take this medication before a meal and/or at bedtime, and try to take any other medications at least 1 hour before or 4 hours after you take cholestyramine because cholestyramine can interfere with their absorption.
Continue to take cholestyramine even if you feel well. Do not stop taking cholestyramine without talking to your doctor. This precaution is especially important if you also take other drugs; changing your cholestyramine dose may change their effects.
Do not take the powder alone. To take the powder, follow these steps:
- Stir the powder into a glass of water, milk, heavy or pulpy fruit juices such as orange juice, or other beverage. If you use a carbonated beverage, mix the powder slowly in a large glass to avoid excessive foaming.
- Drink the mixture slowly.
- Rinse the drinking glass with more of the beverage and drink it to be sure that you get all of the powder.
The powder also may be mixed with applesauce, crushed pineapple, pureed fruit, and soup. Although the powder may be mixed in hot foods, do not heat the powder. To improve the taste and for convenience, you can prepare doses for an entire day on the previous evening and refrigerate them.
To take the chewable bars, chew each bite thoroughly before swallowing.
Drink plenty of liquids while you are taking this medication.
What side effects can this medication cause?
Cholestyramine may cause side effects. Tell your doctor if any of these symptoms are severe or do not go away:
- stomach pain
- upset stomach
- loss of appetite
If you experience the following symptom, call your doctor immediately:
- unusual bleeding (such as bleeding from the gums or rectum)
If you experience a serious side effect, you or your doctor may send a report to the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program online (http://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch) or by phone (1-800-332-1088).
Pregnancy & Lactation
Pregnancy category: C
Lactation: Drug does not enter breast milk; use with caution because of potential vitamin loss in mother
A:Generally acceptable. Controlled studies in pregnant women show no evidence of fetal risk.
B:May be acceptable. Either animal studies show no risk but human studies not available or animal studies showed minor risks and human studies done and showed no risk.
C:Use with caution if benefits outweigh risks. Animal studies show risk and human studies not available or neither animal nor human studies done.
D:Use in LIFE-THREATENING emergencies when no safer drug available. Positive evidence of human fetal risk.
X:Do not use in pregnancy. Risks involved outweigh potential benefits. Safer alternatives exist.
NA:Information not available.
Mechanism of Action
Forms complex with bile acids that is not absorbed through intestine; inhibits enterohepatic reuptake of intestinal bile salts, and this, in turn, increases fecal loss of bile salt-bound LDL and consequently reduces serum cholesterol in patients with primary hypercholesterolemia
Peak effect: 21 days
Excretion: Feces (insoluble complex with bile acids)