Fenofibrate: a review of its lipid-modifying effects in dyslipidemia and its vascular effects in type 2 diabetes mellitus

Gillian M Keating
American Journal of Cardiovascular Drugs: Drugs, Devices, and Other Interventions 2011 August 1, 11 (4): 227-47
Fenofibrate is a fibric acid derivative with lipid-modifying effects that are mediated by the activation of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-α. Fenofibrate also has a number of nonlipid, pleiotropic effects (e.g. reducing levels of fibrinogen, C-reactive protein, and various pro-inflammatory markers, and improving flow-mediated dilatation) that may contribute to its clinical efficacy, particularly in terms of improving microvascular outcomes. The beneficial effects of fenofibrate on the lipid profile have been shown in a number of randomized controlled trials. In primary dyslipidemia, fenofibrate monotherapy consistently decreased triglyceride (TG) levels to a significantly greater extent than placebo; significantly greater increases in high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) levels and significantly greater reductions in low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) and total cholesterol (TC) levels were also seen in some trials. Monotherapy with fenofibrate or gemfibrozil had generally similar effects on TG and HDL-C levels, although in one trial, TC and LDL-C levels were reduced to a significantly greater extent with fenofibrate than with gemfibrozil. Fenofibrate monotherapy tended to improve TG and HDL-C levels to a significantly greater extent than statin monotherapy in primary dyslipidemia, whereas statin monotherapy decreased LDL-C and TC levels to a significantly greater extent than fenofibrate monotherapy. Fenofibrate also had a beneficial effect on atherogenic dyslipidemia in patients with the metabolic syndrome or type 2 diabetes mellitus, reducing TG levels, tending to increase HDL-C levels, and promoting a shift to larger low-density lipoprotein particles. In terms of cardiovascular outcomes, fenofibrate did not reduce the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) events to a greater extent than placebo in patients with type 2 diabetes in the FIELD trial. However, the risk of some nonfatal macrovascular events (e.g. nonfatal myocardial infarction, revascularization) and certain microvascular outcomes (e.g. amputation, first laser therapy for diabetic retinopathy, progression of albuminuria) was reduced to a significantly greater extent with fenofibrate than with placebo. Subgroup analysis revealed a significant reduction in the cardiovascular disease (CVD) event rate among fenofibrate recipients in the subgroup of patients with marked hypertriglyceridemia or marked dyslipidemia at baseline. In the ACCORD Lipid trial, there were no significant differences between patients with type 2 diabetes and a high risk of CVD events who received fenofibrate plus simvastatin and those who received placebo plus simvastatin for any of the primary or secondary cardiovascular outcomes. However, fenofibrate plus simvastatin was of benefit in patients who had markedly high TG levels and markedly low HDL-C levels at baseline. In addition, fenofibrate plus simvastatin slowed the progression of diabetic retinopathy. Fenofibrate is generally well tolerated. Common adverse events included increases in transaminase levels that were usually transient, minor, and asymptomatic, and gastrointestinal signs and symptoms. In conclusion, monotherapy with fenofibrate remains a useful option in patients with dyslipidemia, particularly in atherogenic dyslipidemia characterized by high TG and low HDL-C levels.

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