CHOLESTYRAMINE- cholestyramine powder, for suspension
CHOLESTYRAMINE LIGHT- cholestyramine powder, for suspension
Golden State Medical Supply, Inc.


Cholestyramine for Oral Suspension USP, the chloride salt of a basic anion exchange resin, a cholesterol lowering agent, is intended for oral administration. Cholestyramine resin is quite hydrophilic, but insoluble in water. The cholestyramine resin in Cholestyramine is not absorbed from the digestive tract. Four grams of anhydrous cholestyramine resin is contained in 9 grams of Cholestyramine for Oral Suspension USP. Four grams of anhydrous cholestyramine resin is contained in 5 grams of Cholestyramine for Oral Suspension USP, Light. It is represented by the following structural formula:

Chemical Structure-Cholestyramine
(click image for full-size original)

Cholestyramine for Oral Suspension USP contains the following inactive ingredients: acacia, citric acid, D&C Yellow No. 10, FD&C Yellow No. 6, flavor (natural and artificial Orange), polysorbate 80, propylene glycol alginate and sucrose. Cholestyramine for Oral Suspension USP, Light contains the following inactive ingredients: aspartame, citric acid, colloidal silicon dioxide, D&C Yellow No. 10, FD&C Red No. 40, flavor (natural and artificial Orange), maltodextrin, propylene glycol alginate and xanthan gum.


Cholesterol is probably the sole precursor of bile acids. During normal digestion, bile acids are secreted into the intestines. A major portion of the bile acids is absorbed from the intestinal tract and returned to the liver via the enterohepatic circulation. Only very small amounts of bile acids are found in normal serum.

Cholestyramine resin adsorbs and combines with the bile acids in the intestine to form an insoluble complex which is excreted in the feces. This results in a partial removal of bile acids from the enterohepatic circulation by preventing their absorption.

The increased fecal loss of bile acids due to Cholestyramine administration leads to an increased oxidation of cholesterol to bile acids, a decrease in beta lipoprotein or low density lipoprotein plasma levels and a decrease in serum cholesterol levels. Although in man, Cholestyramine produces an increase in hepatic synthesis of cholesterol, plasma cholesterol levels fall.

In patients with partial biliary obstruction, the reduction of serum bile acid levels by Cholestyramine reduces excess bile acids deposited in the dermal tissue with resultant decrease in pruritus.


1) Cholestyramine for Oral Suspension USP is indicated as adjunctive therapy to diet for the reduction of elevated serum cholesterol in patients with primary hypercholesterolemia (elevated low density lipoprotein [LDL] cholesterol) who do not respond adequately to diet. Cholestyramine may be useful to lower LDL cholesterol in patients who also have hypertriglyceridemia, but it is not indicated where hypertriglyceridemia is the abnormality of most concern.

Therapy with lipid-altering agents should be a component of multiple risk factor intervention in those individuals at significantly increased risk for atherosclerotic vascular disease due to hypercholesterolemia. Treatment should begin and continue with dietary therapy specific for the type of hyperlipoproteinemia determined prior to initiation of drug therapy. Excess body weight may be an important factor and caloric restriction for weight normalization should be addressed prior to drug therapy in the overweight.

Prior to initiating therapy with Cholestyramine, secondary causes of hypercholesterolemia (e.g., poorly controlled diabetes mellitus, hypothyroidism, nephrotic syndrome, dysproteinemias, obstructive liver disease, other drug therapy, alcoholism), should be excluded, and a lipid profile performed to assess Total cholesterol, HDL-C, and triglycerides (TG). For individuals with TG less than 400 mg/dL (<4.5 mmol/L), LDL-C can be estimated using the following equation:

LDL-C = Total cholesterol – [(TG/5) + HDL-C]

For TG levels >400 mg/dL, this equation is less accurate and LDL-C concentrations should be determined by ultracentrifugation. In hypertriglyceridemic patients, LDL-C may be low or normal despite elevated Total-C. In such cases Cholestyramine may not be indicated.

Serum cholesterol and triglyceride levels should be determined periodically based on NCEP guidelines to confirm initial and adequate long-term response. A favorable trend in cholesterol reduction should occur during the first month of Cholestyramine therapy. The therapy should be continued to sustain cholesterol reduction. If adequate cholesterol reduction is not attained, increasing the dosage of Cholestyramine or adding other lipid-lowering agents in combination with Cholestyramine should be considered.

Since the goal of treatment is to lower LDL-C, the NCEP 4 recommends that LDL-C levels be used to initiate and assess treatment response. If LDL-C levels are not available then Total-C alone may be used to monitor long-term therapy. A lipoprotein analysis (including LDL-C determination) should be carried out once a year. The NCEP treatment guidelines are summarized below.

*Coronary heart disease or peripheral vascular disease (including symptomatic carotid artery disease).

**Other risk factors for coronary heart disease (CHD) include: age (males ≥45 years; females ≥55 years or premature menopause without estrogen replacement therapy); family history of premature CHD; current cigarette smoking; hypertension; confirmed HDL-C <35 mg/dL (<0.91 mmol/L); and diabetes mellitus. Subtract one risk factor if HDL-C is ≥60 mg/dL (≥1.6 mmol/L).

LDL-Cholesterol mg/dL (mmol/L)
Definite Atherosclerotic Disease* Two or More Other Risk Factors** Initiation Level Goal
NO NO ≥190 (≥4.9) <160 (<4.1)
NO YES ≥160 (≥4.1) <130 (<3.4)
YES YES or NO ≥130 (≥3.4) ≤100 (≤2.6)

Cholestyramine monotherapy has been demonstrated to retard the rate of progression 2,3 and increase the rate of regression3 of coronary atherosclerosis.

2) Cholestyramine for oral suspension is indicated for the relief of pruritus associated with partial biliary obstruction. Cholestyramine for oral suspension has been shown to have a variable effect on serum cholesterol in these patients. Patients with primary biliary cirrhosis may exhibit an elevated cholesterol as part of their disease.


Cholestyramine for oral suspension is contraindicated in patients with complete biliary obstruction where bile is not secreted into the intestine and in those individuals who have shown hypersensitivity to any of its components.





Chronic use of cholestyramine resin may be associated with increased bleeding tendency due to hypoprothrombinemia associated with Vitamin K deficiency. This will usually respond promptly to parenteral Vitamin K1 and recurrences can be prevented by oral administration of Vitamin K1. Reduction of serum or red cell folate has been reported over long term administration of cholestyramine resin. Supplementation with folic acid should be considered in these cases.

There is a possibility that prolonged use of cholestyramine resin, since it is a chloride form of anion exchange resin, may produce hyperchloremic acidosis. This would especially be true in younger and smaller patients where the relative dosage may be higher. Caution should also be exercised in patients with renal insufficiency or volume depletion, and in patients receiving concomitant spironolactone.

Cholestyramine resin may produce or worsen pre-existing constipation. The dosage should be increased gradually in patients to minimize the risk of developing fecal impaction. In patients with pre-existing constipation, the starting dose should be 1 packet or 1 scoop once daily for 5–7 days, increasing to twice daily with monitoring of constipation and of serum lipoproteins, at least twice, 4–6 weeks apart. Increased fluid intake and fiber intake should be encouraged to alleviate constipation and a stool softener may occasionally be indicated. If the initial dose is well tolerated, the dose may be increased as needed by one dose/day (at monthly intervals) with periodic monitoring of serum lipoproteins. If constipation worsens or the desired therapeutic response is not achieved at one to six doses/day, combination therapy or alternate therapy should be considered. Particular effort should be made to avoid constipation in patients with symptomatic coronary artery disease. Constipation associated with cholestyramine resin may aggravate hemorrhoids.

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