Evolution of the HMG CoA reductase inhibitors (statins) in cardiovascular medicine

Br J Cardiol 2004;11:129-36 Leave a comment
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Recent trials have broadened the evidence base for statin use. It has now been documented that these drugs are effective agents not only in the general at-risk population, but also in the primary and secondary prevention of coronary heart disease in type 2 diabetics and in the elderly. The Heart Protection Study demonstrated the benefits of statin therapy in diabetics free of vascular disease, regardless of initial low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol level. Age is no longer a barrier to treatment, as revealed in the Prospective Study of Pravastatin in the Elderly at Risk, a trial which found that even a relatively brief period of statin therapy in elderly patients can result in a 19% reduction in the risk of a coronary event.
Statins have the ability to lower the plasma concentration of all apoB-containing lipoproteins. This may help explain their clinical efficacy in diabetics who generally have unremarkable LDL-cholesterol levels. Most currently available statins are also able to induce a modest (5% to 10%) rise in high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, an effect that appears distinct from LDL lowering. This broadens their use to subjects with a variety of problems such as the metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance.
The success of large-scale trials in coronary heart disease contrasts with the abundant evidence of under-treatment, even in high-risk groups. Thus the greatest need, at present, is to close the gap between the principles and practice of coronary disease prevention.

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