Fibrates are cholesterol-lowering medicines. They work by decreasing your triglycerides, a type of fat in your blood. Fibrates can also increase your levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. If you have high triglycerides, taking fibrates may decrease your risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke.
Fibrates are medications to help lower triglyceride levels and increase the levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. Triglycerides are a certain type of fat transported in the blood, mostly after a meal and then stored in fat cells. High triglycerides are associated with cardiovascular disease and can cause pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas gland.
Taking fibrates can also increase your high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, or “good” cholesterol. But fibrates don’t lower your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol much, or “bad” cholesterol.
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Fibrates reduce the amount of very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) your liver makes. VLDL particles carry triglycerides to other parts of your body. By limiting how much VLDL your body makes, these medicines lower your triglyceride levels.
Fibrate drugs also increase the amount of apolipoproteins A-I and A-II your liver makes. These two proteins help create HDL cholesterol. Creating more of these proteins increases your HDL cholesterol levels.
Your healthcare provider may prescribe fibrates to reduce your triglycerides and/or raise your HDL cholesterol levels. Although triglycerides are associated with cardiovascular disease, it has not been consistently established that taking fibrates reduces the risk of a heart attack or stroke. Lowering triglycerides using fibrate medications is a key step in reducing the risk for pancreatitis.
There are several types of fibrates. You may take:
Fibrates are highly effective for some people. Research shows that certain fibrates can:
Fibrates may be the only medication you take to lower triglycerides and to reduce your risk of pancreatitis. To reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease, your provider will likely prescribe them together with statins, another type of cholesterol-lowering drug.
If you take both fibrates and statins, your provider closely monitors side effects. Many people safely take both medications, although some may have an increased risk of muscle problems.
Along with medication, your provider may also recommend:
Both fibrates and statins are safe medications. Statins are established to reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease, but this has not been consistently proven for fibrate medications. Fibrates may be mainly given to reduce the risk of pancreatitis.
Although high triglycerides are associated with an increase in heart attack and stroke, lowering triglycerides with fibrates hasn’t consistently been shown to reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease. In people with elevated triglycerides, fibrates reduce the risk for pancreatitis.
Like all medications, some people may experience side effects after taking fibrates. Fibrates may cause:
Fibrates can increase the effects of some blood thinners. If you take warfarin (Coumadin®), your provider may need to adjust your dose to decrease bleeding risks.
Gemfibrozil, a specific type of fibrate, can interact with certain statins, such as simvastatin (Zocor®) and lovastatin (Altoprev®, Mevacor®). If your provider prescribes both fibrates and statins, you will receive instructions about risks, benefits and side effects to watch for.
While taking fibrates, you need to visit a healthcare provider regularly. Your provider will do blood tests to check if the medicine is improving your cholesterol. You should continue to take the medicine as long as your healthcare provider prescribes it.
Fibrates aren’t right for everyone. You may not be able to take them if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or have:
Call your healthcare provider right away if you experience:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Fibrates are a type of cholesterol-lowering medication. They work by decreasing your triglycerides and increasing your HDL cholesterol. In people with high triglycerides, fibrates can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke. Your provider may prescribe fibrates alone. Or you may take them with another medication, such as a statin. Typically, fibrates are one part of an overall treatment plan that includes healthy lifestyle habits.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 02/10/2022.
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