Bile Acid Resins to Lower Cholesterol

Bile acid resins are one type, or class, of medicine used to lower cholesterol levels in the blood. They are also known as bile acid sequestrants or bile acid-binding medicines.

When Are Bile Acid Resins Prescribed?

Doctors may prescribe this type of medicine for:
  • men younger than age 45 who have LDL levels of 160 to 220 mg/dL
  • women younger than 55 who have LDL levels of 160 to 220 mg/dL
Doctors may also prescribe them for people who have very high cholesterol and who already take a statin medicine.

Doctors may prescribe lower doses for people who have the following:

  • borderline-high LDL levels, or levels that range from 130 to 159 mg/dL
  • multiple risk factors for heart disease or currently have heart disease

Common Names of Bile Acid Resins

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

brand generic
Colestid colestipol HCl
Locholest cholestyramine
Locholest Light cholestyramine
Prevalite cholestyramine
Questran cholestyramine
Questran Light cholestyramine
Welchol colesevelam HCL

How to Take Bile Acid Resins

Bile acid resins come in tablet form or as a powder. You must mix the powder with water, juice, cereal, pulpy fruit, or any noncarbonated beverage. If you take tablets, take them once or twice a day based on your doctor's guidance. Most of these medicines can be taken with meals. This may help ease side effects. If you take powder, the amount of the powder and how often you take it will depend on your cholesterol levels. Your doctor will give you instructions. The powder doesn't dissolve but becomes suspended in the liquid, so it may feel gritty. Take care not to inhale or ingest the dry powder. It can cause a severe reaction.

How Bile Acid Resins Work

Your liver uses cholesterol to make bile acids, which help you digest food. Bile acid resins bind to bile acids. This prompts your liver to use more cholesterol. The more cholesterol your liver uses, the less reaches your bloodstream.