Ezetimibe for the prevention of cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality events

Shipeng Zhan, Min Tang, Fang Liu, Peiyuan Xia, Maoqin Shu, Xiaojiao Wu
Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2018 November 19, 11: CD012502

BACKGROUND: Cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains an important cause of mortality and morbidity, and high levels of blood cholesterol are thought to be the major modifiable risk factors for CVD. The use of statins is the preferred treatment strategy for the prevention of CVD, but some people at high-risk for CVD are intolerant to statin therapy or unable to achieve their treatment goals with the maximal recommended doses of statin. Ezetimibe is a selective cholesterol absorption inhibitor, whether it has a positive effect on CVD events remains uncertain. Results from clinical studies are inconsistent and a thorough evaluation of its efficacy and safety for the prevention of CVD and mortality is necessary.

OBJECTIVES: To assess the efficacy and safety of ezetimibe for the prevention of CVD and all-cause mortality.

SEARCH METHODS: We searched the CENTRAL, MEDLINE, Embase and Web of Science on 27 June 2018, and two clinical trial registry platforms on 11 July 2018. We checked reference lists from primary studies and review articles for additional studies. No language restrictions were applied.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We included randomised controlled trials (RCTs) that compared ezetimibe versus placebo or ezetimibe plus other lipid-modifying drugs versus other lipid-modifying drugs alone in adults, with or without CVD, and which had a follow-up of at least 12 months.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Two review authors independently selected studies for inclusion, extracted data, assessed risk of bias and contacted trialists to obtain missing data. We performed statistical analyses according to the Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions and used the GRADE to assess the quality of evidence.

MAIN RESULTS: We included 26 RCTs randomising 23,499 participants. All included studies assessed effects of ezetimibe plus other lipid-modifying drugs compared with other lipid-modifying drugs alone or plus placebo. Our findings were driven by the largest study (IMPROVE-IT), which had weights ranging from 41.5% to 98.4% in the different meta-analyses.Ezetimibe with statins probably reduces the risk of major adverse cardiovascular events compared with statins alone (risk ratio (RR) 0.94, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.90 to 0.98; a decrease from 284/1000 to 267/1000, 95% CI 256 to 278; 21,727 participants; 10 studies; moderate-quality evidence). Trials reporting all-cause mortality used ezetimibe with statin or fenofibrate and found they have little or no effect on this outcome (RR 0.98, 95% CI 0.91 to 1.05; 21,222 participants; 8 studies; high-quality evidence). Adding ezetimibe to statins probably reduces the risk of non-fatal myocardial infarction (MI) (RR 0.88, 95% CI 0.81 to 0.95; a decrease from 105/1000 to 92/1000, 95% CI 85 to 100; 21,145 participants; 6 studies; moderate-quality evidence) and non-fatal stroke (RR 0.83, 95% CI 0.71 to 0.97; a decrease 32/1000 to 27/1000, 95% CI 23 to 31; 21,205 participants; 6 studies; moderate-quality evidence). Trials reporting cardiovascular mortality added ezetimibe to statin or fenofibrate, probably having little or no effect on this outcome (RR 1.00, 95% CI 0.89 to 1.12; 19457 participants; 6 studies; moderate-quality evidence). The need for coronary revascularisation might be reduced by adding ezetimibe to statin (RR 0.94, 95% CI 0.89 to 0.99; a decrease from 196/1000 to 184/1000, 95% 175 to 194; 21,323 participants; 7 studies); however, no difference in coronary revascularisation rate was observed when a sensitivity analysis was limited to studies with a low risk of bias.In terms of safety, adding ezetimibe to statins may make little or no difference in the risk of hepatopathy (RR 1.14, 95% CI 0.96 to 1.35; 20,687 participants; 4 studies; low-quality evidence). It is uncertain whether ezetimibe increase or decrease the risk of myopathy (RR 1.31, 95% CI 0.72 to 2.38; 20,581 participants; 3 studies; very low-quality evidence) and rhabdomyolysis, given the wide CIs and low event rate. Little or no difference in the risk of cancer, gallbladder-related disease and discontinuation due to adverse events were observed between treatment groups. For serum lipids, adding ezetimibe to statin or fenofibrate might further reduce the low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), total cholesterol and triglyceride levels and likely increase the high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels; however, substantial heterogeneity was detected in most analyses.None of the included studies reported on health-related quality of life.

AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: Moderate- to high-quality evidence suggests that ezetimibe has modest beneficial effects on the risk of CVD endpoints, primarily driven by a reduction in non-fatal MI and non-fatal stroke, but it has little or no effect on clinical fatal endpoints. The cardiovascular benefit of ezetimibe might involve the reduction of LDL-C, total cholesterol and triglycerides. There is insufficient evidence to determine whether ezetimibe increases the risk of adverse events due to the low and very low quality of the evidence. The evidence for beneficial effects was mainly obtained from individuals with established atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD, predominantly with acute coronary syndrome) administered ezetimibe plus statins. However, there is limited evidence regarding the role of ezetimibe in primary prevention and the effects of ezetimibe monotherapy in the prevention of CVD, and these topics thus requires further investigation.

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