Objective: To review the clinical benefit of statins in the early management of acute coronary syndromes (ACSs) and their possible mechanisms of benefit.
Data sources: A MEDLINE search (1966-September 2001) was conducted using the following terms: pravastatin, lovastatin, simvastatin, atorvastatin, cerivastatin, fluvastatin, statins, hydroxymethylglutaryl coenzyme A reductase inhibitor, acute coronary syndromes, unstable angina, and myocardial infarction. Pertinent articles referenced in these publications were also reviewed.
Study selection and data extraction: French- and English-language human and animal studies were selected and analyzed.
Data synthesis: In addition to their lipid-lowering properties, statins produce several nonlipid-related properties. These pleiotropic properties include improved endothelial function, reduction of inflammation at the site of the atherosclerotic plaque, inhibition of platelet aggregation, and anticoagulant effects, all of which may result in clinical benefit during ACSs. Preliminary studies and retrospective analyses of large clinical trials support the hypothesis that statins may be of benefit in ACSs. A recently published randomized, double-blind, multicenter trial evaluated the clinical impact of high-dose atorvastatin in patients with ACSs. Use of atorvastatin resulted in a decrease in a combined endpoint of cardiovascular events. Furthermore, initiation of statin therapy during hospitalization improves long-term compliance and may significantly improve clinical outcome.
Conclusions: Early use of statins in ACSs appears to decrease cardiovascular events. We believe statin therapy should be initiated early (at the latest before hospital discharge) in all patients who have been hospitalized for ACSs. Ongoing studies will clarify the benefit of these agents in ACSs, the importance of their nonlipid-lowering properties, and the optimal cholesterol-target concentrations.