Management of dyslipidemia in the high-risk patient

Evan A Stein
American Heart Journal 2002, 144 (6): S43-50
Lipid-lowering agents have been shown to reduce morbidity and mortality associated with coronary heart disease (CHD), particularly in high-risk patients. The identification and treatment of these patients should therefore be a high priority for clinicians. Guidelines from medical organizations, such as the National Cholesterol Education Program Adult Treatment Panel (NCEP ATP) and the American Diabetes Association (ADA), suggest that patients with low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) levels > or =130 mg/dL, and perhaps even those with levels > or =100 mg/dL, should receive drug therapy. Optimal LDL-C levels have been set at <100 mg/dL and <115 mg/dL for high-risk patients by US and European guidelines, respectively. However, a recent survey shows that only about 20% of high-risk patients currently meet these goals. In order to achieve therapeutic targets for LDL-C, the statins are the foundation of treatment, as they are the most effective and best-tolerated form of lipid-lowering therapy. Other therapeutic options include bile acid sequestrants, niacin, and plant stanols, although seldom as monotherapy. Combination therapy with a statin and one of these other lipid-lowering agents can be useful in patients who are unable to achieve target lipid levels through monotherapy. There remains, however, a need for additional agents. Some of the new options for reducing LDL-C levels that may be available in the near future include 2 new statins, pitavastatin and rosuvastatin. In patients with heterozygous familial hypercholesterolemia, rosuvastatin, which is currently under review by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), has been shown to produce significantly greater reductions in LDL-C than atorvastatin over its full dose range. In comparative clinical trials, it has also enabled more patients with primary hypercholesterolemia to meet lipid goals than atorvastatin, simvastatin, and pravastatin. Inhibitors of bile acid transport or cholesterol absorption may also have therapeutic value. The first cholesterol absorption inhibitor, ezetimibe, which has just been approved by the FDA, appears to be most effective when combined with a statin. It is anticipated that such new options will allow clinicians to optimize the management of dyslipidemia in high-risk patients, thereby reducing the morbidity and mortality of CHD.


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