Drug treatment of hyperlipidemia in women

JAMA. 2004 May 12;291(18):2243-52. doi: 10.1001/jama.291.18.2243.


Context: Several clinical trials have evaluated the effects of lipid-lowering medications on coronary heart disease (CHD). Many of the trials have not included enough women to allow sex-specific analyses or have not reported results in women separately.

Objectives: To assess and synthesize the evidence regarding drug treatment of hyperlipidemia for the prevention of CHD events in women and to conduct a meta-analysis of the effect of drug treatment on mortality.

Data sources: We searched MEDLINE, the Cochrane Database, and the Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effectiveness for articles published from 1966 through December 2003. We reviewed reference lists of articles and consulted content experts.

Study selection and data extraction: Studies of outpatients that had a treatment duration of at least 1 year, assessed the impact of lipid lowering on clinical outcomes, and reported results by sex were included. Outcomes evaluated were total mortality, CHD mortality, nonfatal myocardial infarction, revascularization, and total CHD events. Summary estimates of the relative risks (RRs) with therapy were calculated using a random-effects model for patients with and without a previous history of cardiovascular disease.

Data synthesis: Thirteen studies were included. Six trials included a total of 11 435 women without cardiovascular disease and assessed the effects of lipid-lowering medications. Lipid lowering did not reduce total mortality (RR, 0.95; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.62-1.46), CHD mortality (RR, 1.07; 95% CI, 0.47-2.40), nonfatal myocardial infarction (RR, 0.61; 95% CI, 0.22-1.68), revascularization (RR, 0.87; 95% CI, 0.33-2.31), or CHD events (RR, 0.87; 95% CI, 0.69-1.09). However, some analyses were limited by too few CHD events in the available trials. Eight trials included 8272 women with cardiovascular disease and assessed the effects of lipid-lowering medications. Lipid lowering did not reduce total mortality in women with cardiovascular disease (RR, 1.00; 95% CI, 0.77-1.29). However, lipid lowering reduced CHD mortality (RR, 0.74; 95% CI, 0.55-1.00), nonfatal myocardial infarction (RR, 0.71; 95% CI, 0.58-0.87), revascularization (RR, 0.70; 95% CI, 0.55-0.89), and total CHD events (RR, 0.80; CI, 0.71-0.91).

Conclusions: For women without cardiovascular disease, lipid lowering does not affect total or CHD mortality. Lipid lowering may reduce CHD events, but current evidence is insufficient to determine this conclusively. For women with known cardiovascular disease, treatment of hyperlipidemia is effective in reducing CHD events, CHD mortality, nonfatal myocardial infarction, and revascularization, but it does not affect total mortality.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Coronary Disease / epidemiology
  • Coronary Disease / prevention & control*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyperlipidemias / drug therapy*
  • Hypolipidemic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Survival Analysis


  • Hypolipidemic Agents