Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Dec 5, 2021.
Commonly used brand name(s)
In the U.S.
- Questran Light
- Novo-Cholamine Light
Available Dosage Forms:
- Powder for Suspension
Therapeutic Class: Antihyperlipidemic
Pharmacologic Class: Bile Acid Sequestrant
Uses for cholestyramine
Cholestyramine is used to lower high cholesterol levels in the blood. This may help prevent medical problems caused by cholesterol clogging the blood vessels. Cholestyramine is also used to remove substances called bile acids from your body. With some liver problems, there is too much bile acid in your body and this can cause severe itching.
Cholestyramine works by attaching to certain substances in the intestine. Since cholestyramine is not absorbed into the body, these substances also pass out of the body without being absorbed.
Cholestyramine may also be used for other conditions as determined by your doctor.
Cholestyramine is available only with your doctor's prescription.
Before using cholestyramine
In deciding to use a medicine, the risks of taking the medicine must be weighed against the good it will do. This is a decision you and your doctor will make. For cholestyramine, the following should be considered:
Tell your doctor if you have ever had any unusual or allergic reaction to cholestyramine or any other medicines. Also tell your health care professional if you have any other types of allergies, such as to foods, dyes, preservatives, or animals. For non-prescription products, read the label or package ingredients carefully.
Cholestyramine has been tested in a limited number of children. In effective doses, the medicine has not been shown to cause different side effects or problems than it does in adults.
Side effects may be more likely to occur in patients over 60 years of age, who are usually more sensitive to the effects of cholestyramine.
Studies suggest that this medication may alter milk production or composition. If an alternative to this medication is not prescribed, you should monitor the infant for side effects and adequate milk intake.
Interactions with medicines
Although certain medicines should not be used together at all, in other cases two different medicines may be used together even if an interaction might occur. In these cases, your doctor may want to change the dose, or other precautions may be necessary. When you are taking cholestyramine, it is especially important that your healthcare professional know if you are taking any of the medicines listed below. The following interactions have been selected on the basis of their potential significance and are not necessarily all-inclusive.
Using cholestyramine with any of the following medicines is usually not recommended, but may be required in some cases. If both medicines are prescribed together, your doctor may change the dose or how often you use one or both of the medicines.
- Mycophenolate Mofetil
- Mycophenolic Acid
Using cholestyramine with any of the following medicines may cause an increased risk of certain side effects, but using both drugs may be the best treatment for you. If both medicines are prescribed together, your doctor may change the dose or how often you use one or both of the medicines.
- Valproic Acid
Interactions with food/tobacco/alcohol
Certain medicines should not be used at or around the time of eating food or eating certain types of food since interactions may occur. Using alcohol or tobacco with certain medicines may also cause interactions to occur. Discuss with your healthcare professional the use of your medicine with food, alcohol, or tobacco.
Other medical problems
The presence of other medical problems may affect the use of cholestyramine. Make sure you tell your doctor if you have any other medical problems, especially:
- Bleeding problems or
- Constipation or
- Gallstones or
- Heart or blood vessel disease or
- Hemorrhoids or
- Stomach ulcer or other stomach problems or
- Underactive thyroid—Cholestyramine may make these conditions worse
- Kidney disease—There is an increased risk of developing electrolyte problems (problems in the blood)
- Phenylketonuria—Phenylalanine in aspartame is included in the sugar-free brand of cholestyramine and should be avoided. Aspartame can cause problems in people with phenylketonuria. Therefore, it is best if you avoid using the sugar-free product.
Proper use of cholestyramine
Take cholestyramine exactly as directed by your doctor. Try not to miss any doses and do not take more medicine than your doctor ordered.
Cholestyramine should never be taken in its dry form, since it could cause you to choke. Instead, always mix as follows:
- Place the medicine in 2 ounces of any beverage and mix thoroughly. Then add an additional 2 to 4 ounces of beverage and again mix thoroughly (it will not dissolve) before drinking. After drinking all the liquid containing the medicine, rinse the glass with a little more liquid and drink that also, to make sure you get all the medicine.
- You may also mix cholestyramine with milk in hot or regular breakfast cereals, or in thin soups such as tomato or chicken noodle soup. Or you may add it to some pulpy fruits such as crushed pineapple, pears, peaches, or fruit cocktail.
For patients taking cholestyramine for high cholesterol :
- Importance of diet—Before prescribing medicine for your condition, your doctor will probably try to control your condition by prescribing a personal diet for you. Such a diet may be low in fats, sugars, and/or cholesterol. Many people are able to control their condition by carefully following their doctor's orders for proper diet and exercise. Medicine is prescribed only when additional help is needed. Follow carefully the special diet your doctor gave you, since the medicine is effective only when a schedule of diet and exercise is properly followed.
- Also, cholestyramine is less effective if you are greatly overweight. It may be very important for you to go on a reducing diet. However, check with your doctor before going on any diet.
- Remember that cholestyramine will not cure your cholesterol problem but it will help control it. Therefore, you must continue to take it as directed if you expect to lower your cholesterol level.
The dose of cholestyramine will be different for different patients. Follow your doctor's orders or the directions on the label. The following information includes only the average doses of cholestyramine. If your dose is different, do not change it unless your doctor tells you to do so.
The amount of medicine that you take depends on the strength of the medicine. Also, the number of doses you take each day, the time allowed between doses, and the length of time you take the medicine depend on the medical problem for which you are using the medicine.
- For oral dosage form (powder for oral suspension):
- For high cholesterol or pruritus (itching) related to biliary obstruction:
- Adults—At first, 4 grams one or two times a day before meals. Then, your doctor may increase your dose to 8 to 24 grams a day. This is divided into two to six doses.
- Children—At first, 4 grams a day. This is divided into two doses and taken before meals. Then, your doctor may increase your dose to 8 to 24 grams a day. This is divided into two or more doses.
- For high cholesterol or pruritus (itching) related to biliary obstruction:
If you miss a dose of cholestyramine, take it as soon as possible. However, if it is almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and go back to your regular dosing schedule. Do not double doses.
Store the medicine in a closed container at room temperature, away from heat, moisture, and direct light. Keep from freezing.
Keep out of the reach of children.
Do not keep outdated medicine or medicine no longer needed.
Precautions while using cholestyramine
It is very important that your doctor check your progress at regular visits. This will allow your doctor to see if the medicine is working properly and to decide if you should continue to take it.
Do not take any other medicine unless prescribed by your doctor since cholestyramine may change the effect of other medicines.
Do not stop taking cholestyramine without first checking with your doctor. When you stop taking cholestyramine, your blood cholesterol levels may increase again. Your doctor may want you to follow a special diet to help prevent this from happening.
Cholestyramine side effects
In some animal studies, cholestyramine was found to cause tumors. It is not known whether cholestyramine causes tumors in humans.
Along with its needed effects, a medicine may cause some unwanted effects. Although not all of these side effects may occur, if they do occur they may need medical attention.
Check with your doctor immediately if any of the following side effects occur:
- Black, tarry stools
- stomach pain (severe) with nausea and vomiting
Check with your doctor as soon as possible if any of the following side effects occur:
- Loss of weight (sudden)
Some side effects may occur that usually do not need medical attention. These side effects may go away during treatment as your body adjusts to the medicine. Also, your health care professional may be able to tell you about ways to prevent or reduce some of these side effects. Check with your health care professional if any of the following side effects continue or are bothersome or if you have any questions about them:
- Heartburn or indigestion
- nausea or vomiting
- stomach pain
Other side effects not listed may also occur in some patients. If you notice any other effects, check with your healthcare professional.
Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.
More about cholestyramine
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- During pregnancy or Breastfeeding
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- Drug class: bile acid sequestrants
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