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Effects of policosanol on borderline to mildly elevated serum total cholesterol levels: a prospective, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group, comparative study.

BACKGROUND: Hypercholesterolemia is a major risk factor for coronary heart disease. Clinical studies have shown that lowering elevated serum cholesterol levels, particularly low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), is beneficial for patients with borderline to mildly elevated serum total cholesterol (TC) levels (5.0-6.0 mmol/L). Policosanol is a cholesterol-lowering drug made from purified sugar cane wax. The therapeutic range of policosanol is 5 to 20 mg/d.

OBJECTIVE: This study investigated the efficacy and tolerability of policosanol 5 mg/d in patients with borderline to mildly elevated serum TC levels.

METHODS: This 14-week, single-center, prospective, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group, comparative study was conducted in men and women aged 25 to 75 years with a serum TC level ≥4.8 to <6.0 mmol/L. After a 6-week run-in period in which patients were placed on therapeutic lifestyle changes, in particular a cholesterol-lowering diet, patients were randomly assigned to receive policosanol 5-mg tablets or placebo tablets once daily with the evening meal for 8 weeks, and the diet was continued throughout the study. Lipid profile variables, safety indicators, adverse events (AEs), and compliance with study medications were assessed.

RESULTS: One hundred patients (71 women, 29 men; mean [SD] age, 52 [10] years) entered the study after the dietary run-in period. After 8 weeks of treatment, the mean (SD) serum LDL-C level decreased significantly in the policosanol group (P<0.001 vs baseline and placebo) from 3.57 (0.30) mmol/L to 2.86 (0.41) mmol/L (change, -19.9%). Significantly more patients in the policosanol group (42 patients [84%]) achieved a ≥15% decrease in serum LDL-C than in the placebo group (2 patients [4%]) (P<0.001). Also in the policosanol group, the mean (SD) serum TC level decreased significantly, from 5.20 (0.22) mmol/L to 4.56 (0.44) mmol/L (P<0.001 vs baseline and placebo) (change, -12.3%); the mean (SD) triglyceride (TG) level decreased significantly, from 1.59 (0.57) mmol/L to 1.48 (0.57) mmol/L (P<0.01 vs baseline; P<0.05 vs placebo) (change, -6.9%); and the mean (SD) high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) level increased significantly from 1.05 (0.18) mmol/L to 1.16 (0.21) mmol/L (P<0.001 vs baseline and placebo) (change, +10.5%). The percentage changes were significantly different between the policosanol and placebo groups for serum LDL-C, TC, and HDL-C levels (P<0.001, P<0.001, and P<0.05, respectively), but not for TG. In the placebo group, changes in lipid profile variables from baseline were not significant. Policosanol did not significantly impair any safety indicator and was well tolerated. Three patients (3%) (1 patient [2%] in the policosanol group; 2 patients [4%] in the placebo group) withdrew from the trial, none because of AEs. Two patients (1 patient [2%] each in the policosanol and placebo groups) withdrew from the study because of an unwillingness to return for follow-up; 1 patient (2%) in the placebo group had a change of address and could not be followed up. Overall, 4 patients (4%) (1 patient [2%] in the policosanol group; 3 [6%], placebo) reported AEs; all were mild. Of the patients who received placebo and reported AEs, all 3 (6%) experienced heartburn, and 1 (2%) also experienced dry skin, while the policosanol-treated patient (2%) who reported an AE experienced headache.

CONCLUSIONS: In this study of patients with borderline to mildly elevated serum TC levels, based on the criterion that ≥70% of policosanol-treated patients reached the LDL-C goal of a decrease ≥15% from baseline whenever this proportion was different with respect to placebo, 8 weeks of treatment with policosanol 5 mg/d was effective. The decreased LDL-C, TC, and TG levels, increased HDL-C level, and good tolerability found with this treatment support its use in such patients.

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