Fundamental & clinical pharmacology

Statins, fibrates, nicotinic acid, cholesterol absorption inhibitors, anion-exchange resins, omega-3 fatty acids: which drugs for which patients?

PMID 19682084


Classes of lipid lowering drugs differ strongly with respect to the types of lipids or lipoproteins they predominantly affect. Statins inhibit the de-novo synthesis of cholesterol. Consequently, the liver produces less VLDL, and the serum concentration primarily of LDL cholesterol (but, to a lesser extent, also of triglycerides) is lowered. Further, statins somewhat increase HDL cholesterol. There is abundant evidence that statins lower the rate of cardiovascular events. Cardiovascular risk reduction is the better, the lower the LDL cholesterol values achieved with statin therapy are. Some evidence is available that anion exchange resins which also decrease LDL cholesterol decrease vascular risk, too. This is not the case for the ezetimibe, which strongly lowers LDL cholesterol: its potential to decrease vascular risk remains to be proven. In contrast evidence for cardiovascular risk reduction through the mainly triglyceride lowering fibrates as well as for niacin is available. Niacin is the most potent HDL increasing drug currently available and besides increasing HDL cholesterol efficaciously lowers triglycerides and LDL cholesterol. Large ongoing trials address the decisive question whether treatment with fibrates and niacin provides additional cardiovascular risk reduction when given in addition to statin treatment.