Second-line lipid-lowering agents

Last updated: August 10, 2021

Summarytoggle arrow icon

Second-line lipid-lowering agents include fibrates, bile acid resins, niacin, and cholesterol absorption inhibitors. These drugs are used concurrently with statins for patients who have hypercholesterolemia that is inadequately controlled with statin monotherapy. They are also used as second-line agents for patients who experience persistent side effects from statins (e.g., myositis, myalgias, and/or myopathy). Each drug targets different steps in the cholesterol and lipid metabolism pathways to treat hypercholesterolemia and, therefore, vary in their effectiveness at decreasing low-density lipoprotein (LDL), increasing high-density lipoprotein (HDL), and decreasing triglycerides. Second-line lipid-lowering agents are rarely indicated for primary prevention of cardiovascular disease because they do not improve cardiovascular outcomes or mortality.

Overview of lipid metabolism and lipid-lowering agentstoggle arrow icon

Overview of lipid-lowering agents
Agents Indications Mechanism of action Effects on lipid profile Adverse effects Contraindications Interactions
LDL HDL Triglycerides
Statins (e.g., atorvastatin, simvastatin)
  • ↓↓↓
PCSK9 inhibitors (e.g., alirocumab, evolocumab)
  • History of hypersensitivity [1]

Bile acid sequestrants (e.g., cholestyramine, colestipol)

  • ↓↓
  • (↑)
  • (↑)


  • ↑/↔︎
  • ↓/↔︎
  • Coadministration with a statin during active liver disease
  • ↑↑
Fibrates (e.g., bezafibrate, fenofibrate, gemfibrozil)
  • ↓↓↓
Marine omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil)
  • Add-on therapy
  • (↑)
  • (↑)
  • ↓ (high doses necessary)
  • Hypersensitivity to ingredients of drug formula


  • ↔︎
  • ↔︎
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms
  • LFTs

Fibrates (fibric acid derivatives)toggle arrow icon

Bile acid resinstoggle arrow icon

Niacintoggle arrow icon

Ezetimibetoggle arrow icon

PCSK9 inhibitorstoggle arrow icon

Otherstoggle arrow icon

Marine omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil)


Referencestoggle arrow icon

  1. $PRALUENT(alirocumab) injection, for subcutaneous use.
  2. $NIASPAN® (niacin extended-release tablets).
  3. $JUXTAPID (lomitapide) capsules, for oral use.
  4. Banach M. Lipoprotein (a)—We Know So Much Yet Still Have Much to Learn …. JAHA. 2016; 5 (4): p.e003597.doi: 10.1161/jaha.116.003597 . | Open in Read by QxMD
  5. Grundy SM, Stone NJ, Bailey AL, et al. 2018 AHA/ACC/AACVPR/AAPA/ABC/ACPM/ADA/AGS/APhA/ASPC/NLA/PCNA Guideline on the Management of Blood Cholesterol: Executive Summary. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2019; 73 (24): p.3168-3209.doi: 10.1016/j.jacc.2018.11.002 . | Open in Read by QxMD
  6. Fernández-Ruiz I. No effect of PCSK9 inhibitors on cognitive function. Nature Reviews Cardiology. 2017; 14 (10): p.568-568.doi: 10.1038/nrcardio.2017.134 . | Open in Read by QxMD

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