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What Do I Need to Know About Fibrates to Lower Cholesterol?

Fibrates may lower trigylcerides 20% to 50%. They may also increase HDL - the good cholesterol - by 10% to 20%. In two large studies, both gemfibrozil and clofibrate reduced heart attack. But in a study by the World Health Organization, patients who were taking clofibrate were more likely to die from causes not related to the heart. As a result of this study, fewer doctors prescribe clofibrate. In the United States, doctors prescribe gemfibrozil more often. More recently, a third type, called fenofibrate, became available. This type may cause fewer gastrointestinal side effects.

When Are Fibrates Prescribed?

Your doctor may prescribe fibrates for you if any of these is true.
  • You have very high trigylcerides, are at risk for inflammation of the pancreas called pancreatitis, and do not improve with diet changes.
  • You have inherited high cholesterol. You have high LDL, high triglycerides, and low HDL.
  • You have diabetes and mulitple problems with the levels of fats, especially triglycerides, in your blood.
If your doctor has prescribed a fibrate for you, be sure to take it as directed.

Common Names of Fibrates

The following table shows some of the most common brand and generic names for this type of medicine.

brand generic
Atromid-S clofibrate
Lopid gemfibrozil
Tricor fenofibrate

How to Take Fibrates

Fibrates come in tablet and capsule form. Most people take gemfibrozil and clofibrate twice a day. Doctors may prescribe up to three doses of the newer fenofibrate per day.

How Fibrates Work

Fibrate medicines have three major actions. They increase the effects of enzymes that break down the fats in your blood. They reduce the amount of cholesterol and triglycerides made in your body. For the fats that your body still produces, fibrates cause your body to excrete more of them.