Gemfibrozil Side Effects

What You Need To Know

By: - Medicine - July 10, 2011
gemfibrozil side effects what you need to know

Gemfibrozil is a pharmaceutical drug used to treat low levels of HDL (good cholesterol) and high levels of LDL (bad cholesterol) in the blood.  It is also prescribed, along with changes in diet, to treat very high triglycerides in the blood for certain people who are at high risk of developing pancreatic disease.  This drug is a “lipid-regulating” class of medications referred to as “fibrates”.  The reduction of triglycerides in the liver is what it mainly does which is how it lowers the triglycerides and cholesterol levels in the blood stream.  In general, in order for the positive effects of this drug to be realized by the patient, they must be in conjunction with dietary changes and physical exercise.  This drug is often also referred to as “hemfibrozil”.  Of course, most lay people recognize the drug by its brand name, in which case they call it one of the following, depending where they live:

  • Lopid
  • Nu-Gemfibrozil
  • Gen-Fibro
  • Apo-Gemfibrozil
  • Novo-Gemfibrozil

As with all medications, one of the primary concerns for physicians and patients when it comes to prescription is the potential gemfibrozil side effects.  Careful consideration must be given to the possible side effects of any drug when deciding to take them.  When it comes to gemfibrozil side effects, the first thing to consider is any other medications that a patient may be on and how they will interact with hemfibrozil.  There are several drugs that, when taken in combination with hemfibrozil, cause a rare condition called rhabdomyolysis, a severe condition of muscle injury which can lead to kidney damage and even death.  The drugs that can assist these hemfibrozil side effects in damaging the muscles are in the statin family of cholesterol-reducing drugs.  A few examples are: lovastatin, pravastatin, fluvastatin and atorvastatin.  These are just a few examples as there are many drugs in the statin family.   Medical literature seems to indicate that the benefits of combination therapy for patients with cholesterol problems do not outweigh the risks of developing rhabdomyolysis.  Patients who are taking warfarin may need to have their warfarin dosages adjusted as one of the known potential hemfibrozil side effects is that of bleeding while also taking warfarin.

People with diabetes are more likely to develop hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) while taking gemfibrozil and as such, the combination should be avoided.

Other gemfibrozil side effects, though uncommon, include the following symptoms:

  • Stomach pain
  • Upset stomach
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Tiredness

In some cases, the above symptoms may be associated with previously mentioned muscle damage but in most cases, the occurrence of these symptoms is very mild, if they occur at all.

More serious hemfibrozil side effects have been documented.  Formulation of gallstones and the necessity of gallbladder surgery have been associated with gemfibrozil.  Abnormal blood liver tests, anemia (reduced red blood cells), leukopenia (reduced white blood cells) and thrombocytopenia (reduced platelets) have been reported.  Pancreatitis is also a possible side effect, though very uncommon.

As with any medication, there is always the potential for an allergic reaction when taking hemfibrozil.  Patients should seek immediate care if they notice any of the following symtpoms:

  • Rash
  • Itching
  • Severe dizziness
  • Trouble breathing

All pharmaceuticals are prescribed and taken with the understanding of potential risks and benefits.  In all cases, the potential benefits should outweigh the risks of the drug being taken.  Patients should stay in close contact with their doctors regarding any and all side effects so that the risks vs benefits consideration remains a top priority for consideration.


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