Background and methods: The effect of intensive lipid-lowering therapy on coronary atherosclerosis among men at high risk for cardiovascular events was assessed by quantitative arteriography. Of 146 men no more than 62 years of age who had apolipoprotein B levels greater than or equal to 125 mg per deciliter, documented coronary artery disease, and a family history of vascular disease, 120 completed the 2 1/2-year double-blind study, which included arteriography at base line and after treatment. Patients were given dietary counseling and were randomly assigned to one of three treatments: lovastatin (20 mg twice a day) and colestipol (10 g three times a day); niacin (1 g four times a day) and colestipol (10 g three times a day); or conventional therapy with placebo (or colestipol if the low-density lipoprotein [LDL] cholesterol level was elevated).
Results: The levels of LDL and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol changed only slightly in the conventional-therapy group (mean changes, -7 and +5 percent, respectively), but more substantially among patients treated with lovastatin and colestipol (-46 and +15 percent) or niacin and colestipol (-32 and +43 percent). In the conventional-therapy group, 46 percent of the patients had definite lesion progression (and no regression) in at least one of nine proximal coronary segments; regression was the only change in 11 percent. By comparison, progression (as the only change) was less frequent among patients who received lovastatin and colestipol (21 percent) and those who received niacin and colestipol (25 percent), and regression was more frequent (lovastatin and colestipol, 32 percent; niacin and colestipol, 39 percent; P less than 0.005). Multivariate analysis indicated that a reduction in the level of apolipoprotein B (or LDL cholesterol) and in systolic blood pressure, and an increase in HDL cholesterol correlated independently with regression of coronary lesions. Clinical events (death, myocardial infarction, or revascularization for worsening symptoms) occurred in 10 of 52 patients assigned to conventional therapy, as compared with 3 of 46 assigned to receive lovastatin and colestipol and 2 of 48 assigned to receive niacin and colestipol (relative risk of an event during intensive treatment, 0.27; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.10 to 0.77).
Conclusions: In men with coronary artery disease who were at high risk for cardiovascular events, intensive lipid-lowering therapy reduced the frequency of progression of coronary lesions, increased the frequency of regression, and reduced the incidence of cardiovascular events.