Acipimox capsules (Olbetam)

Take acipimox capsules with, or just after, a meal.

The most common side-effects are headache, flushing and indigestion. These can often occur during the first few days of treatment but soon settle.

Follow carefully any lifestyle advice you have been given such as stopping smoking, avoiding drinking too much alcohol, eating a healthy diet and taking exercise. These are also an important part of managing your condition.

Type of medicineA lipid-regulating medicine
Used forLowering lipid levels in the blood
Also calledOlbetam®
Available asCapsules

Lipids, or fats, are made naturally in your body from the food you eat. They are easily stored in your body and serve as a source of energy. Cholesterol and triglycerides are types of lipid. If the concentration of these lipids in your blood becomes too high, it leads to a condition called hyperlipidaemia. Although a high blood concentration of lipids will not make you feel ill, it can cause a problem if it is left untreated.

People with high lipid levels can develop small fatty patches called atheroma. These patches develop when excess fat is deposited on to the walls of blood vessels. Over time, these patches can make a blood vessel narrower and this is called atherosclerosis (sometimes referred to as 'hardening of the arteries'). The narrowing reduces the blood flow through the artery and increases the risk of a number of heart and blood vessel diseases, such as heart attack and stroke.

Some people are able to control high lipid levels by following a healthy diet and taking regular exercise. Medicines like acipimox are prescribed when additional help is needed. Acipimox lowers the levels of lipids in your blood. It does this by preventing the release of fats from the tissues in your body which act as storage areas. It is usually given alongside other medicines to lower lipid levels.

Some medicines are not suitable for people with certain conditions, and sometimes a medicine may only be used if extra care is taken. For these reasons, before you start taking acipimox it is important that your doctor knows:

  • If you are pregnant or breast-feeding.
  • If you have any problems with the way your kidneys work.
  • If you have a stomach ulcer.
  • If you are taking or using any other medicines. This includes any medicines you are taking which are available to buy without a prescription, such as herbal and complementary medicines.
  • If you have ever had an allergic reaction to a medicine.
  • Before you start the treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside the pack. It will give you more information about acipimox and will provide you with a full list of the side-effects which you could experience from taking it.
  • Take the capsules exactly as your doctor tells you to. It is usual to take one 250 mg capsule either two or three times a day. Your doctor will tell you which is the right dose for you, and the dose will also be printed on the label of the pack to remind you about what the doctor said.
  • Take the capsule with a snack, or just after eating a meal. It is a good idea to swallow the capsule with a drink of water.
  • Try to take your doses at the same times of day each day, as this will help you to remember to take the capsules regularly. If you forget to take a dose, take it as soon as you remember unless it is nearly time for your next dose, in which case leave out the missed dose. Do not take two capsules at the same time to make up for a forgotten dose.
  • Try to keep your regular appointments with your doctor. This is so that your doctor can check on your progress. You will need to have some blood tests from time to time. These are to measure your lipid levels and also to check that your liver and kidneys are working well.
  • Your doctor will give you advice about eating a healthy diet, cutting down on the amount of alcohol you normally drink, reducing the amount of salt in your diet, stopping smoking and taking regular exercise. Following this advice will help you to reduce your risk of developing heart and blood vessel disease, and is an important part of managing your condition.
  • Treatment with acipimox is usually long-term unless you experience an adverse effect. You should continue to take it regularly.

Along with their useful effects, most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. The table below contains some of the most common side-effects associated with acipimox. You will find a full list in the manufacturer's information leaflet supplied with your medicine. Unwanted effects often improve as your body adjusts to the new medicine, but speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following continue or become troublesome.

Very common acipimox side-effects (these affect more than 1 in 10 people)
What can I do if I experience this?
HeadacheThis is more likely in the first few days of treatment. Ask your pharmacist to recommend a suitable painkiller
FlushingThis is more likely in the first few days of treatment and should settle as your body gets used to acipimox
IndigestionTry to stick to simple meals (avoid rich or spicy foods), and remember to take the capsules after food.
Common acipimox side-effects (these affect less than 1 in 10 people)What can I do if I experience this?
Itchy skin reactions, feeling weak, stomach painIf any of these become troublesome, speak with your doctor

If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to the capsules, speak with your doctor or pharmacist for further advice.

  • Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
  • Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.

Never take more than the prescribed dose. If you suspect that you or someone else might have taken an overdose of this medicine, go to the accident and emergency department of your local hospital. Take the container with you, even if it is empty.

This medicine is for you. Never give it to other people even if their condition appears to be the same as yours.

If you buy any medicines, check with a pharmacist that they are safe to take with your other medicines.

If you are having an operation or dental treatment, tell the person carrying out the treatment which medicines you are taking.

Do not keep out-of-date or unwanted medicines. Take them to your local pharmacy which will dispose of them for you.

If you have any questions about this medicine ask your pharmacist.

Further reading & references

  • Manufacturer's PIL, Olbetam® Capsules 250; Pfizer Limited, The electronic Medicines Compendium. Dated February 2014.
  • British National Formulary; 70th Edition (Sep 2015) British Medical Association and Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, London

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.

Original Author:
Helen Allen
Current Version:
Peer Reviewer:
Dr Hannah Gronow
Document ID:
3434 (v24)
Last Checked:
28/10/2015
Next Review:
27/10/2018
The Information Standard - certified member

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