Background: Statins are the most effective agents currently available for lowering plasma levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) and are the mainstay of therapy for hyperlipidemia. The statins are highly liver-selective, inhibiting 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A (HMG-CoA) reductase, a key enzyme in the synthesis of cholesterol. Several large, controlled clinical trials have confirmed significant reductions in rates of coronary heart disease morbidity and death with long-term statin therapy in patients with mild to severe hypercholesterolemia.
Methods and results: This review article is based on a literature search of more than 60 relevant articles from peer-reviewed journals. Search engines included Medline and Embase. In surveying clinical and angiographic evidence, we found that statins appear to reduce the incidence of coronary events by slowing the progression of atherosclerosis and preventing atheromatous lesion formation. We found that the 6 statins currently marketed-atorvastatin, cerivastatin, fluvastatin, lovastatin, pravastatin, and simvastatin-differ in their inhibitory action on the HMG-CoA reductase enzyme.
Conclusions: The use of more potent statins such as atorvastatin and simvastatin affords greater lowering of LDL-C and triglyceride levels, allowing more patients to achieve target goals. The question of how low LDL-C levels should be lowered will be answered by ongoing clinical trials.