Effects of HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors on coagulation and fibrinolysis processes

Drugs. 2003;63(17):1821-54. doi: 10.2165/00003495-200363170-00005.


Recent large clinical trials have demonstrated that HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors, or statins, markedly reduce morbidity and mortality when used in the primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease. It has been established that the benefits of statin therapy in cardiovascular disease can be explained not only by the lipid-lowering potential of statins but also by nonlipid-related mechanisms (so-called "pleiotropic effects") that contribute to the positive effect of statins on the incidence of cardiovascular events. The coagulation and fibrinolytic systems are two separate but reciprocally linked enzyme cascades that regulate the formation and breakdown of fibrin. Numerous studies have demonstrated that disturbances of coagulation and fibrinolysis contribute to the development and progression of atherosclerosis, and that they affect the incidence of atherosclerosis-related clinical events. High plasma levels or activities of fibrinogen, factor VII, factor VIII, von Willebrand factor (vWF), soluble thrombomodulin, tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) and plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 (PAI-1) are thought to be associated with increased morbidity and mortality related to cardiovascular disease. Experimental studies and many clinical studies have recently shown that statins produce favourable effects on haemostatic parameters, including those that are risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Statins diminish procoagulant activity, which is observed at different stages of the coagulation cascade, including tissue factor (TF) activity, conversion of prothrombin to thrombin and thrombin activity. In some studies, statins also reduced fibrinogen levels. By altering the levels and activities of tPA and PAI-1, statins seem to stimulate fibrinolysis. The data on the effects of combined treatment with statins and other drugs on haemostasis are rather limited. They suggest that statins combined with fibric acid derivatives, omega-3 fatty acids and 17beta-estradiol are superior to statins alone. The only two clinical studies performed in patients with acute coronary syndromes showed a relatively weak effect of statins on haemostasis in those patients. Although various statins may produce different effects on individual variables, there are no convincing data showing that differences in their physicochemical and pharmacokinetic properties significantly alter their net effect on excessive procoagulant activity. Apart from the lipid-lowering effect, statins suppress the synthesis of several important nonsterol isoprenoids derived from the mevalonate pathway, especially farnesyl and geranylgeranyl pyrophosphates, which via enhanced protein prenylation, are involved in the regulation of many cellular processes. It is presumed that the inhibitory effect of statins on the mevalonate pathway is involved in the regulation of some key steps of coagulation and fibrinolysis processes. In this way they probably regulate the synthesis of TF, tPA and PAI-1, and perhaps they also control the generation and activity of thrombin. The beneficial effects of statins on coagulation and fibrinolysis may be responsible for their ability to decrease the number of cardiovascular events. The lipid-independent effects of statins on haemostasis may contribute to the marked decrease in the incidence rates of mortality, hospitalisation and revascularisation in patients treated with these drugs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Coagulation / drug effects*
  • Blood Coagulation / physiology
  • Coronary Disease / blood
  • Coronary Disease / drug therapy
  • Fibrinolysis / drug effects*
  • Fibrinolysis / physiology
  • Humans
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Hyperlipidemias / blood
  • Hyperlipidemias / drug therapy
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic


  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors