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LE Magazine August 2007


Intensive lipid lowering with atorvastatin in patients with stable coronary disease.

BACKGROUND: Previous trials have demonstrated that lowering low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels below currently recommended levels is beneficial in patients with acute coronary syndromes. We prospectively assessed the efficacy and safety of lowering LDL cholesterol levels below 100 mg per deciliter (2.6 mmol per liter) in patients with stable coronary heart disease (CHD). METHODS: A total of 10,001 patients with clinically evident CHD and LDL cholesterol levels of less than 130 mg per deciliter (3.4 mmol per liter) were randomly assigned to double-blind therapy and received either 10 mg or 80 mg of atorvastatin per day. Patients were followed for a median of 4.9 years. The primary end point was the occurrence of a first major cardiovascular event, defined as death from CHD, nonfatal non-procedure-related myocardial infarction, resuscitation after cardiac arrest, or fatal or nonfatal stroke. RESULTS: The mean LDL cholesterol levels were 77 mg per deciliter (2.0 mmol per liter) during treatment with 80 mg of atorvastatin and 101 mg per deciliter (2.6 mmol per liter) during treatment with 10 mg of atorvastatin. The incidence of persistent elevations in liver aminotransferase levels was 0.2 percent in the group given 10 mg of atorvastatin and 1.2 percent in the group given 80 mg of atorvastatin (P<0.001). A primary event occurred in 434 patients (8.7%) receiving 80 mg of atorvastatin, as compared with 548 patients (10.9%) receiving 10 mg of atorvastatin, representing an absolute reduction in the rate of major cardiovascular events of 2.2% and a 22% relative reduction in risk (hazard ratio, 0.78; 95% confidence interval, 0.69 to 0.89; P<0.001). There was no difference between the two treatment groups in overall mortality. CONCLUSIONS: Intensive lipid-lowering therapy with 80 mg of atorvastatin per day in patients with stable CHD provides significant clinical benefit beyond that afforded by treatment with 10 mg of atorvastatin per day. This occurred with a greater incidence of elevated aminotransferase levels.

N Engl J Med. 2005 Apr 7;352(14):1425-35

High-dose atorvastatin after stroke or transient ischemic attack.

BACKGROUND: Statins reduce the incidence of strokes among patients at increased risk for cardiovascular disease; whether they reduce the risk of stroke after a recent stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA) remains to be established. METHODS: We randomly assigned 4,731 patients who had had a stroke or TIA within one to six months before study entry, had low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels of 100 to 190 mg per deciliter (2.6 to 4.9 mmol per liter), and had no known coronary heart disease to double-blind treatment with 80 mg of atorvastatin per day or placebo. The primary end point was a first nonfatal or fatal stroke. RESULTS: The mean LDL cholesterol level during the trial was 73 mg per deciliter (1.9 mmol per liter) among patients receiving atorvastatin and 129 mg per deciliter (3.3 mmol per liter) among patients receiving placebo. During a median follow-up of 4.9 years, 265 patients (11.2%) receiving atorvastatin and 311 patients (13.1%t) receiving placebo had a fatal or nonfatal stroke (5-year absolute reduction in risk, 2.2%; adjusted hazard ratio, 0.84; 95% confidence interval, 0.71 to 0.99; P=0.03; unadjusted P=0.05). The atorvastatin group had 218 ischemic strokes and 55 hemorrhagic strokes, whereas the placebo group had 274 ischemic strokes and 33 hemorrhagic strokes. The five-year absolute reduction in the risk of major cardiovascular events was 3.5 percent (hazard ratio, 0.80; 95% confidence interval, 0.69 to 0.92; P=0.002). The overall mortality rate was similar, with 216 deaths in the atorvastatin group and 211 deaths in the placebo group (P=0.98), as were the rates of serious adverse events. Elevated liver enzyme values were more common in patients taking atorvastatin. CONCLUSIONS: In patients with recent stroke or TIA and without known coronary heart disease, 80 mg of atorvastatin per day reduced the overall incidence of strokes and of cardiovascular events, despite a small increase in the incidence of hemorrhagic stroke.

N Engl J Med. 2006 Aug 10;355(6):549-59

Statin safety: a systematic review.

A systematic review of cohort studies, randomized trials, voluntary notifications to national regulatory authorities, and published case reports was undertaken to assess the incidence and characteristics of adverse effects in patients treated with 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A (HMG-CoA) reductase inhibitors, or statins. For statins other than cerivastatin, the incidence of rhabdomyolysis in 2 cohort studies was 3.4 (1.6 to 6.5) per 100,000 person-years, an estimate supported by data from 20 randomized controlled trials. Case fatality was 10%. Incidence was about 10 times greater when gemfibrozil was used in combination with statins. Incidence was higher (4.2 per 100,000 person-years) with lovastatin, simvastatin, or atorvastatin (which are oxidized by cytochrome P450 3A4 [CYP3A4], which is inhibited by many drugs) than pravastatin or fluvastatin (which are not oxidized by CYP3A4). In persons taking simvastatin, lovastatin, or atorvastatin, 60% of cases involved drugs known to inhibit CYP3A4 (especially erythromycin and azole antifungals), and 19% involved fibrates, principally gemfibrozil. The incidence of myopathy in patients treated with statins, estimated from cohort studies supported by randomized trials, was 11 per 100,000 person-years. For liver disease, randomized trials reported fewer hepatobiliary disorders in patients allocated statins than in those allocated placebo. The notification rate of liver failure to regulatory authorities was about 1 per million person-years of statin use. Randomized trials show no excess of renal disease or proteinuria in statin-allocated participants, and the decline in glomerular filtration rate was smaller with statins than with placebo. Evidence from 4 cohort studies and case reports suggests that statins cause peripheral neuropathy, but the attributable risk is small (12 per 100,000 person-years). No change in cognitive function was found in randomized trials of statins in elderly patients.

Am J Cardiol. 2006 Apr 17;97(8A):52C-60C

Effect of coenzyme q10 on myopathic symptoms in patients treated with statins.

Treatment of hypercholesterolemia with statins (3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A reductase inhibitors) is effective in the primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease. However, statin use is often associated with a variety of muscle-related symptoms or myopathies. Myopathy may be related in part to statin inhibition of the endogenous synthesis of coenzyme Q10, an essential cofactor for mitochondrial energy production. The aim of this study is to determine whether coenzyme Q10 supplementation would reduce the degree of muscle pain associated with statin treatment. Patients with myopathic symptoms were randomly assigned in a double-blinded protocol to treatment with coenzyme Q10 (100 mg/day, n = 18) or vitamin E (400 IU/day, n = 14) for 30 days. Muscle pain and pain interference with daily activities were assessed before and after treatment. After a 30-day intervention, pain severity decreased by 40% (p <0.001) and pain interference with daily activities decreased by 38% (p <0.02) in the group treated with coenzyme Q10. In contrast, no changes in pain severity (+9%, p = NS) or pain interference with daily activities (-11%, p = NS) was observed in the group treated with vitamin E. In conclusion, results suggest that coenzyme Q10 supplementation may decrease muscle pain associated with statin treatment. Thus, coenzyme Q10 supplementation may offer an alternative to stopping treatment with these vital drugs.

Am J Cardiol. 2007 May 15;99(10):1409-12

Statins provoking MELAS syndrome. A case report.

BACKGROUND: Statins inhibit the production of 2,3-dimethoxy,5-methyl,6-polyisoprene parabenzoquinone also known as ubiquinone or coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), which is required for mitochondrial electron transport. Idiopathic or primary CoQ10 deficiencies have been known to cause mitochondrial encephalomyopathy. METHODS: We present the case of a patient with mitochondrial syndrome, consisting of mitochondrial encephalomyopathy, lactic acidosis and stroke-like episodes (MELAS), whose symptoms were temporally related to statin therapy. CONCLUSION: Statins may provoke symptoms related to MELAS in susceptible individuals.

Eur Neurol. 2007;57(4):232-5

The clinical use of HMG CoA-reductase inhibitors and the associated depletion of coenzyme Q10. A review of animal and human publications.

The depletion of the essential nutrient CoQ10 by the increasingly popular cholesterol lowering drugs, HMG CoA reductase inhibitors (statins), has grown from a level of concern to one of alarm. With ever higher statin potencies and dosages, and with a steadily shrinking target LDL cholesterol, the prevalence and severity of CoQ10 deficiency is increasing noticeably. An estimated 36 million Americans are now candidates for statin drug therapy. Statin-induced CoQ10 depletion is well documented in animal and human studies with detrimental cardiac consequences in both animal models and human trials. This drug-induced nutrient deficiency is dose related and more notable in settings of pre-existing CoQ10 deficiency such as in the elderly and in heart failure. Statin-induced CoQ10 deficiency is completely preventable with supplemental CoQ10 with no adverse impact on the cholesterol lowering or anti-inflammatory properties of the statin drugs. We are currently in the midst of a congestive heart failure epidemic in the United States, the cause or causes of which are unclear. As physicians, it is our duty to be absolutely certain that we are not inadvertently doing harm to our patients by creating a wide-spread deficiency of a nutrient critically important for normal heart function.

Biofactors. 2003;18(1-4):101-11

Treatment of statin adverse effects with supplemental Coenzyme Q10 and statin drug discontinuation.

Fifty consecutive new cardiology clinic patients who were on statin drug therapy (for an average of 28 months) on their initial visit were evaluated for possible adverse statin effects (myalgia, fatigue, dyspnea, memory loss, and peripheral neuropathy). All patients discontinued statin therapy due to side effects and began supplemental CoQ(10) at an average of 240 mg/day upon initial visit. Patients have been followed for an average of 22 months with 84% of the patients followed now for more than 12 months. The prevalence of patient symptoms on initial visit and on most recent follow-up demonstrated a decrease in fatigue from 84% to 16%, myalgia from 64% to 6%, dyspnea from 58% to 12%, memory loss from 8% to 4% and peripheral neuropathy from 10% to 2%. There were two deaths from lung cancer and one death from aortic stenosis with no strokes or myocardial infarctions. Measurements of heart function either improved or remained stable in the majority of patients. We conclude that statin-related side effects, including statin cardiomyopathy, are far more common than previously published and are reversible with the combination of statin discontinuation and supplemental CoQ(10). We saw no adverse consequences from statin discontinuation.

Biofactors. 2005;25(1-4):147-52

Effect of different antilipidemic agents and diets on mortality: a systematic review.

BACKGROUND: Guidelines for the prevention and treatment of hyperlipidemia are often based on trials using combined clinical end points. Mortality data are the most reliable data to assess efficacy of interventions. We aimed to assess efficacy and safety of different lipid-lowering interventions based on mortality data. METHODS: We conducted a systematic search of randomized controlled trials published up to June 2003, comparing any lipid-lowering intervention with placebo or usual diet with respect to mortality. Outcome measures were mortality from all, cardiac, and noncardiovascular causes. RESULTS: A total of 97 studies met eligibility criteria, with 137,140 individuals in intervention and 138,976 individuals in control groups. Compared with control groups, risk ratios for overall mortality were 0.87 for statins (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.81-0.94), 1.00 for fibrates (95% CI, 0.91-1.11), 0.84 for resins (95% CI, 0.66-1.08), 0.96 for niacin (95% CI, 0.86-1.08), 0.77 for n-3 fatty acids (95% CI, 0.63-0.94), and 0.97 for diet (95% CI, 0.91-1.04). Compared with control groups, risk ratios for cardiac mortality indicated benefit from statins (0.78; 95% CI, 0.72-0.84), resins (0.70; 95% CI, 0.50-0.99) and n-3 fatty acids (0.68; 95% CI, 0.52-0.90). Risk ratios for noncardiovascular mortality of any intervention indicated no association when compared with control groups, with the exception of fibrates (risk ratio, 1.13; 95% CI, 1.01-1.27). CONCLUSIONS: Statins and n-3 fatty acids are the most favorable lipid-lowering interventions with reduced risks of overall and cardiac mortality. Any potential reduction in cardiac mortality from fibrates is offset by an increased risk of death from noncardiovascular causes.

Arch Intern Med. 2005 Apr 11;165(7):725-30

Reduction of serum ubiquinol-10 and ubiquinone-10 levels by atorvastatin in hypercholesterolemic patients.

Reduction of serum cholesterol levels with statin therapy decreases the risk of coronary heart disease. Inhibition of HMG-CoA reductase by statin results in decreased synthesis of cholesterol and other products downstream of mevalonate, which may produce adverse effects in statin therapy. We studied the reductions of serum ubiquinol-10 and ubiquinone-10 levels in hypercholesterolemic patients treated with atorvastatin. Fourteen patients were treated with 10 mg/day of atorvastatin, and serum lipid, ubiquinol-10 and ubiquinone-10 levels were measured before and after 8 weeks of treatment. Serum total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol levels decreased significantly. All patients showed definite reductions of serum ubiquinol-10 and ubiquinone-10 levels, and mean levels of serum ubiquinol-10 and ubiquinone-10 levels decreased significantly from 0.81 +/- 0.21 to 0.46 +/- 0.10 microg/ml (p < 0.0001), and from 0.10 +/- 0.06 to 0.06 +/- 0.02 microg/ml (p = 0.0008), respectively. Percent reductions of ubiquinol-10 and those of total cholesterol showed a positive correlation (r = 0.627, p = 0.0165). As atorvastatin reduces serum ubiquinol-10 as well as serum cholesterol levels in all patients, it is imperative that physicians are forewarned about the risks associated with ubiquinol-10 depletion.

J Atheroscler Thromb. 2005;12(2):111-9

Prescription of statins to dyslipidemic patients affected by liver diseases: a subtle balance between risks and benefits.

AIM: Statins reduce cardiovascular morbidity and mortality in the general population with an excellent risk-benefit profile. The most frequent adverse events are myopathy and increase in hepatic aminotransferases. In this review, we consider the role of liver in metabolism of statins, their potential hepatic toxicity and the guidelines for their prescription in patients affected by different liver diseases. DATA SYNTHESIS: Statin-induced hepatic toxicity: i) occurs in 1-3% of patients; ii) is characterized by increased aminotransferase levels; iii) is dose-related; iv) is frequently asymptomatic; v) usually reverts after dosage reduction or treatment withdrawal. Finally, after recovery, a rechallenge with the same or other statins may not result in increased aminotranferases. CONCLUSIONS: Caution is needed when prescribing statins to patients with liver disease, and liver toxicity should always be monitored during statin treatment. In particular, i) the potential hepatic toxicity requires frequent control of biochemical parameters related to hepatic cytolysis and cholestasis in all patients on statins; ii) administration of statins is counterindicated in patients with advanced or end-stage parenchymal liver disease due to the relevant impairment of their metabolism; iii) cholestatic disorders with secondary dyslipidemia do not require statin treatment even if relevant alterations of the lipid pattern are detected; iv) patients with acute liver disease of viral or alcoholic etiology should not receive statins until normalization of cytolysis enzymes; v) chronic hepatitis patients may be treated by statins if their cardiovascular risk is elevated and provided that careful follow-up is carried out to rapidly recognize the onset of further liver damage; vi) liver transplantation recipients affected by dyslipidemia induced by immunosuppressive therapy can be treated with statins under careful clinical control; vii) the benefits of statins should likely overcome the risks in the large majority of dyslipidemic patients affected by non-alcoholic hepatosteatosis, a disease frequently diagnosed in insulin-resistant subjects.

Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2004 Aug;14(4):215-24