The hepatotoxic potential of 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A reductase inhibitors in patients with underlying chronic liver disease remains controversial. We performed a multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group trial that compared pravastatin (80 mg) to a placebo administered once daily to hypercholesterolemic subjects greater than 18 years of age with at least a 6-month history of compensated chronic liver disease and with a low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) level greater than or equal to 100 mg/dL and a triglyceride (TG) level lower than 400 mg/dL. The efficacy was determined by the percentage change in LDL-C [along with the total cholesterol (TC), high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and TG] from the baseline to week 12. The safety was analyzed by the proportion of subjects who developed at least 1 alanine aminotransferase (ALT) value greater than or equal to 2 times the upper limit of normal for those with normal ALT at the baseline or a doubling of the baseline ALT for those with elevated ALT at the baseline during 36 weeks of treatment. A total of 630 subjects were screened, and 326 subjects were randomized; nonalcoholic fatty liver disease was present in 64%, and chronic hepatitis C was present in 23%. In the intent-to-treat population, pravastatin (80 mg/day) significantly lowered the mean LDL-C, TC, and TG values at week 12 and at other times (weeks 4, 8, 24, and 36) in comparison with the placebo. The incidence of subjects who met the primary prespecified ALT event definition was lower in the pravastatin group at all times over the 36 weeks of therapy in comparison with the placebo group, although the difference was not statistically significant. No differences were seen on the basis of the baseline ALT values or among the different liver disease groups.
Conclusion: High-dose pravastatin (80 mg/day) administered to hypercholesterolemic subjects with chronic liver disease significantly lowered LDL-C, TC, and TGs in comparison with the placebo and was safe and well tolerated. The concern over an increased potential for statin-induced hepatotoxicity in patients with chronic liver disease appears to be lessened on the basis of these results.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00529178.