Opening a new lipid "apo-thecary": incorporating apolipoproteins as potential risk factors and treatment targets to reduce cardiovascular risk

Mayo Clin Proc. 2011 Aug;86(8):762-80. doi: 10.4065/mcp.2011.0128.


Statins (3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A reductase inhibitors) represent the cornerstone of drug therapy to reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and cardiovascular risk. However, even optimal statin management of LDL cholesterol leaves many patients with residual cardiovascular risk, in part because statins are more effective in reducing LDL cholesterol than apolipoprotein B (Apo B). Apo B may be a better marker of atherogenic risk than LDL cholesterol because Apo B measures the total number of all atherogenic particles (total atherosclerotic burden), including LDL, very low-density lipoprotein, intermediate-density lipoprotein, remnant lipoproteins, and lipoprotein(a). To determine whether Apo B is a better indicator of baseline cardiovascular risk and residual risk after lipid therapy compared with LDL cholesterol, a MEDLINE search of the literature published in English from January 1, 1975, through December 1, 2010, was conducted. On the basis of data from most population studies, elevated Apo B was more strongly associated with incident coronary heart disease than similarly elevated LDL cholesterol. Apo B was also a superior benchmark (vs LDL cholesterol) of statins' cardioprotective efficacy in both primary-prevention and secondary-prevention trials. To minimize cardiovascular risk among persons with hypercholesterolemia or dyslipidemia, the best available evidence suggests that intensive therapy with statins should be initiated to achieve the lowest possible Apo B level (with adequate drug toleration) and then other therapies (eg, niacin, bile acid resins, ezetimibe) added to potentiate these Apo B-lowering effects. In future consensus lipid-lowering treatment guidelines, Apo B should be considered as an index of residual risk, a potential parameter of treatment efficacy, and a treatment target to minimize risk of coronary heart disease.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Apolipoproteins B / blood
  • Bile Acids and Salts / therapeutic use*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / blood
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / therapy*
  • Cholestyramine Resin / therapeutic use
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Humans
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Hypolipidemic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Niacin / therapeutic use*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Risk Assessment


  • Apolipoproteins B
  • Bile Acids and Salts
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors
  • Hypolipidemic Agents
  • Cholestyramine Resin
  • Niacin