RESEARCH SUPPORT, NON-U.S. GOV'T
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Comparison of the efficacy and tolerability of policosanol with atorvastatin in elderly patients with type II hypercholesterolaemia.

BACKGROUND: Hypercholesterolaemia is a risk factor for coronary heart disease (CHD). Clinical studies have shown that lowering elevated serum total cholesterol (TC) levels, and particularly low density lipoprotein-cholesterol (LDL-C) levels, reduces the frequency of coronary morbidity and deaths, whereas high serum levels of high density lipoprotein-cholesterol (HDL-C) protect against CHD. Policosanol is a cholesterol-lowering drug purified from sugar cane wax with a therapeutic dosage range from 5-20 mg/day. Atorvastatin is an HMG-CoA reductase inhibitor which across its dosage range (10-80 mg/day) has shown significantly greater lipid-lowering effects than all previously marketed statins.

OBJECTIVE: This study was undertaken to compare the efficacy and tolerability of policosanol with atorvastatin in older patients with type II hypercholesterolaemia.

PATIENTS AND METHODS: This randomised, single-blind, parallel-group study was conducted in older patients (60-80 years) with type II hypercholesterolaemia. After 4 weeks on a cholesterol-lowering diet, 75 patients were randomised to policosanol or atorvastatin 10mg tablets taken once daily with the evening meal for 8 weeks. An interim and final check-up were performed at 4 and 8 weeks, respectively, after treatment was initiated.

RESULTS: At 4 (p < 0.0001) and 8 (p < 0.00001) weeks, policosanol 10 mg/day significantly lowered serum LDL-C levels by 17.5 and 23.1%, respectively compared with baseline; corresponding values for atorvastatin were 28.4 and 29.8%. At study completion, policosanol significantly (p < 0.0001) reduced serum TC (16.4%), LDL-C/HDL-C ratio (25.5%) and TC/HDL-C ratio (19.3%), as well as (p < 0.001) triglyceride levels (15.4%). Atorvastatin significantly (p < 0.0001) decreased serum TC (22.6%), LDL-C/HDL-C (26.2%) and TC/HDL-C (19.8%) ratios, as well as (p < 0.001) triglyceride levels (15.5%). Atorvastatin was significantly more effective than policosanol in reducing LDL-C and TC, but similar in reducing both atherogenic ratios and triglyceride levels. Policosanol, but not atorvastatin, significantly (p < 0.05) increased serum HDL-C levels by 5.3%. Both treatments were well tolerated. At study completion, atorvastatin mildly, but significantly (p < 0.05) increased creatine phosphokinase (CPK) and creatinine, whereas policosanol significantly reduced AST and glucose (p < 0.01) and CPK (p < 0.05) levels. All individual values, however, remained within normal limits. Three atorvastatin but no policosanol patients withdrew from the study because of adverse events: muscle cramps (1 patient), gastritis (1 patient) and uncontrolled hypertension, abdominal pain and myalgia (1 patient). Overall, no policosanol and seven atorvastatin patients (18.9%) reported a total of nine mild or moderate adverse events during the study (p < 0.01).

CONCLUSIONS: This study shows that policosanol (10 mg/day) administered for 8 weeks was less effective than atorvastatin (10 mg/day) in reducing serum LDL-C and TC levels in older patients with type II hypercholesterolaemia. Policosanol, but not atorvastatin, however, significantly increased serum HDL-C levels, whereas both drugs similarly reduced atherogenic ratios and serum triglycerides. Policosanol was better tolerated than atorvastatin as revealed by patient withdrawal analysis and overall frequency of adverse events. Nevertheless, further studies must be conducted in larger sample sizes and using dose-titration methods to achieve target lipid levels in order to reach wider conclusions.

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