Harvard Heart Letter

Ask the doctor: Does Tricor cause gallstones?

Ask the doctor

Does Tricor cause gallstones?

Q. I started taking Tricor because I have low HDL and high triglycerides. Someone I know at work developed gallstones after being on Tricor for a while. Is this a common side effect? If so, is there another medication I can take?

A. Fenofibrate (Tricor) is one of several medications known as fibrates or fibric acid derivatives. They are generally used for the problems you have "" high triglycerides and a low level of protective high-density lipoprotein (HDL). People who take Tricor or other fibrates are more likely to develop gallstones than those who don't, though this may be due as much to their high triglycerides, which prompt gallstone formation, as to these medications. No one knows exactly what proportion of people who take a fibrate also develop a gallstone "" one review put it at 1% "" or whether it happens mainly in people who already have gallbladder trouble or who are genetically predisposed to making gallstones.

Other medications are available for lowering triglycerides and boosting HDL. High-dose fish oil (2 to 4 grams a day) can lower triglycerides. Niacin is one of the best medications for boosting HDL. Neither appears to promote gallstone formation.

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