The power of statins: aggressive lipid lowering

Evan A Stein
Clinical Cardiology 2003, 26 (4): III25-31
A large body of evidence has demonstrated that reductions in low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) decrease the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) and related adverse events. The greatest reductions in morbidity and mortality are attained in higher-risk patients, suggesting that targeting this group can maximize the cost-effectiveness of statins, since fewer patients need to be treated to prevent one event. High-risk individuals (those with preexisting CHD or CHD risk equivalents) require aggressive lipid lowering to achieve the stringent LDL-C goal levels established by the third report of the National Cholesterol Education Program Adult Treatment Panel (NCEP ATP III). The hydroxymethylglutaryl coenzyme A (HMG-CoA) reductase inhibitors, or statins, have assumed the central role in this setting because of their superior ability to reduce LDL-C across the spectrum of CHD risk. Rosuvastatin, a new agent in this class, reduces LDL-C to a significantly greater degree than atorvastatin, pravastatin, or simvastatin. The more aggressive goals put forward since ATP I (1987) have heightened interest in more efficacious statins. As a result, simvastatin, atorvastatin, and now rosuvastatin have been developed, adding sequentially greater LDL-C-reducing capacity for the physician. Substantially more patients, particularly high-risk patients, are thereby able to achieve NCEP ATP III target LDL-C levels with rosuvastatin. Other cholesterol-lowering drugs (bile acid sequestrants, niacin, plant stanols, and fibrates) are much less effective at lowering LDL-C and are much less well tolerated but may be useful when combined with statins. A novel class of agents, cholesterol transport inhibitors, have recently become available. These and other new agents hold promise to help achieve ATP III goals when used in combination regimens initiated with a statin.

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