6 Medications That Can Cause High Triglycerides

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Was this helpful?
Pain Medication

Though they don’t factor in to your total cholesterol level, blood fats called triglycerides still have an impact on your health. Extremely high triglycerides—500 mg/dL or higher—can put you at risk for pancreatitis. This inflammation of the pancreas gland can cause stomach pain, digestive problems, and, eventually, diabetes.

Almost one-third of American adults have high triglycerides. Obesity, family history, excess alcohol consumption, and a sedentary lifestyle often play a role. But certain medications for other health conditions also can influence your triglyceride level. If you take one of these drugs, ask your health care provider how often you should have a lipid panel. This measures your triglycerides and your cholesterol. Always talk with your health care provider before stopping or starting any medication.

1. Blood pressure medicines

High blood pressure also increases your risk for heart disease. If you can’t control your numbers through lifestyle changes, your health care provider may recommend treatment with medications called thiazide diuretics (commonly called “water pills”) or beta-blockers.

 2. Corticosteroids

The term may bring to mind athletes and performance-enhancing supplements. But these strong drugs aren’t the same as body-builders’ steroids. In fact, they bear a greater similarity to hormones produced by your body’s adrenal glands. Corticosteriods treat a wide range of health problems, including asthma, arthritis, autoimmune diseases, eczema and other skin conditions, and certain types of cancer.

3. Antipsychotics

Though they were developed to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and other severe forms of mental illness, health care providers now prescribe these drugs to children and adults for a wide range of psychological complaints. These range from autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) to conduct disorder and Tourette’s syndrome.

Newer antipsychotics—including aripiprazole (Abilify), olanzapine (Zyprexa) quetiapine (Seroquel), and risperidone (Risperdal)—may raise triglyceride levels. However, first-generation antipsychotics, such as chlorpromazine (Thorazine) and haloperidol (Haldol), don’t have this effect.

4. Isotretinoin

This potent drug helps treat severe acne that hasn’t responded to other treatments, such as antibiotics. Health care providers also use it to treat other skin conditions and some types of cancer. Because isotretinoin also causes severe birth defects, women who use it must also use two forms of birth control and check in with their health care providers every month.

5. HIV treatments

Drug cocktails known as antiretroviral therapy have transformed HIV from a frequently fatal disease to a chronic condition. Because of the triglyceride-boosting effects of antiretrovirals, people with HIV often must take cholesterol-lowering statins as well. Some studies suggest omega-3 fatty acid supplements may have similar benefits.

6. Estrogen

As women enter menopause, their bodies produce less of the female hormone estrogen. Some choose to take supplemental estrogen to control symptoms like night sweats and hot flashes. Besides raising triglycerides, estrogen has several other serious side effects, including an increased risk for blood clots and strokes. For these reasons, doctors recommend women take hormone therapy at the lowest dose possible for the least amount of time necessary to relieve their symptoms.

Key Takeaways

  • Almost one-third of American adults have high triglycerides, which can be harmful to your health.

  • Certain medications can influence your triglyceride levels. These include some blood pressure medicines, corticosteroids, antipsychotics, isotretinoin, HIV treatments, and estrogen.

  • Always talk with your health care provider before starting or stopping any medications.
Was this helpful?
Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2022 Feb 11
View All Cholesterol Articles
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
  1. Burglund L, Brunzell J, and Sacks F. Patient Guide to the Assessment and Treatment of Hypertriglyceridemia (High Triglycerides).  J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2012 Sep;97(9):31A-32A.
  2. Triglycerides. American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Encyclopedia/Heart-Encyclopedia_UCM_445084_Encyclopedia.jsp?levelSelec...
  3. HIV and Hyperlipidemia. Department of Health and Human Services. AIDSinfo.  https://aidsinfo.nih.gov/education-materials/fact-sheets/22/66/hiv-and-hyperlipidemia
  4. Hormones and Menopause. National Institutes of Health. National Institute on Aging. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/hormones-and-menopause
  5. Olanzapine.  MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine. https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/meds/a601213.html
  6. Isotretinoin.  MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine. https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/meds/a681043.html
  7. Steroids. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine. https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/steroids.html
  8. Antipsychotic Medicines for Children and Teens: A Review of the Research for Parents and Caregivers. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. http://www.effectivehealthcare.ahrq.gov/ehc/products/147/1146/anti_psych_ped_cons_fin_to_post.pdf