Fibrates and microvascular complications in diabetes--insight from the FIELD study

Curr Pharm Des. 2009;15(5):537-52. doi: 10.2174/138161209787315701.


Fibrates are widely prescribed lipid-lowering drug in the treatment of dyslipidemia. Their main clinical effects, mediated by peroxisome proliferative activated receptor (PPAR) alpha activation, are a moderate reduction in total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) levels, a marked reduction in triglycerides (TG) and an increase in high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), usually dependent of their baseline levels and dyslipidemia type. A beneficial effect on cardiovascular outcomes but also on inflammatory and thrombogenesis pathways as well as antioxidant properties have been evidenced conferring other pleiotropic effects to fibrates. Diabetic retinopathy, nephropathy and neuropathy are the major microvascular complications of Type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) and their presence can accentuate the risk of cardiovascular disease. Hyperglycemia, hypertension, genetic susceptibility among other risk factors play a significant role in the development and progression of these complications. Plasma lipid abnormalities are also involved in the pathogenesis of microvascular diseases suggesting a potential benefit of lipid lowering drugs in their prevention. Clofibrate was the first fibrate in the 60's to show an improvement in the retinal hard exudation in subjects with diabetic retinopathy. Recently, in the Fenofibrate Intervention in Event Lowering in Diabetes (FIELD) study fenofibrate treatment demonstrated a significant 30% reduction in the need for laser therapy in patients with and without known diabetic retinopathy, and more particularly in the first course of laser treatment for both macular edema and proliferative retinopathy. In addition, fenofibrate treatment was associated with less albuminuria progression and reduced risk of non traumatic distal amputations. These results, along with previous evidence of positive effects on microvascular complications, suggest that fibrates, and particularly fenofibrate, offer good opportunity to prevent the most serious complications of diabetes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control
  • Clofibric Acid / pharmacology*
  • Clofibric Acid / therapeutic use
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / complications
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / drug therapy*
  • Diabetic Angiopathies / prevention & control
  • Diabetic Nephropathies / prevention & control
  • Diabetic Neuropathies / prevention & control
  • Fenofibrate / pharmacology
  • Fenofibrate / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Hypolipidemic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Hypolipidemic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Risk Factors


  • Hypolipidemic Agents
  • Clofibric Acid
  • Fenofibrate