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Merck recalls all Liptruzet cholesterol drugs over packaging concerns

Merck drug company
Merck drug company
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If you use medication to lower your cholesterol, listen up, there's a recall that could effect you.

Drugmaker Merck & Co. said Tuesday that it's recalling a combination cholesterol drug, wiping out the entire U.S. stock, due to packaging defects that could reduce effectiveness.

Merck said the recall covers all four dose strengths and every batch distributed since Liptruzet was launched last May.

Merck says some of the foil pouches holding the pills could allow air and moisture inside. There's a chance that might decrease the drug's effectiveness or change its properties but that the recall is not due to any reports of patients being harmed.

Liptruzet combines two popular drugs to reduce levels of LDL, or bad cholesterol.

Merck's own Zetia, known chemically as ezetimibe, decreases the amount of cholesterol absorbed from food. The other ingredient, atorvastatin, lowers the body's natural production of cholesterol.

The company says patients can continue taking any Liptruzet they have and should consult a doctor before stopping it.

It's important to get your cholesterol checked. A cholesterol screening measures your level of HDL and LDL. HDL is the "good" cholesterol which helps keep the LDL (bad) cholesterol from getting lodged into your artery walls. A healthy level of HDL may also protect against heart attack and stroke, while low levels of HDL (less than 40 mg/dL for men and less than 50 mg/dL for women) have been shown to increase the risk of heart disease.

There are ways to manage your cholesterol naturally, through diet and exercise.

Make sure that less than 7% of calories come from saturated fat. Cholesterol from food should be limited to less than 200 mg per day. Make sure to consume only enough calories to maintain a desirable weight and to avoid weight gain.

Add healthy fats to your diet. Avocados contain significant amounts of oleic acid, a healthy monounsaturated fat that helps boost good cholesterol and lower bad. Nuts also are high in plant sterols, substances that block the absorption of cholesterol. Olive oil, canola and walnut oil have the added benefit of helping to cut LDL cholesterol levels without affecting HDL. Aim for about 2 tablespoons a day in place of other fats.