Percent reduction in LDL cholesterol following high-intensity statin therapy: potential implications for guidelines and for the prescription of emerging lipid-lowering agents

Eur Heart J. 2016 May 1;37(17):1373-9. doi: 10.1093/eurheartj/ehw046. Epub 2016 Feb 24.


Aims: Current statin guidelines in Europe and Canada advocate achieving a fixed LDL target or the attainment of a ≥50% reduction in low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDLC), while current US guidelines advocate the use of statin therapies that reduce LDLC by <50% (moderate intensity) or ≥50% (high intensity). Data are limited, however, linking the achievement of these % reduction thresholds to subsequent cardiovascular outcomes particularly for contemporary high-intensity regimens.

Methods and results: In a randomized trial of 17 082 initially healthy men and women with median baseline LDLC of 108 mg/dL (interquartile range 94-119), we (i) used waterfall plots to assess the variability in LDLC response to rosuvastatin 20 mg daily and (ii) evaluated the impact of reaching ≥50% reductions in LDLC on risk of developing the first cardiovascular events. Among rosuvastatin allocated participants, 3640 individuals (46.3%) experienced an LDLC reduction ≥50%; 3365 individuals (42.8%) experienced an LDLC reduction >0 but <50%; and 851 individuals (10.8%) experienced no reduction or an increase in LDLC compared with baseline. These % LDLC reductions directly related to the risks of first cardiovascular events; at trial completion, incidence rates for the primary endpoint were 11.2, 9.2, 6.7, and 4.8 per 1000 person-years for those in the placebo, no LDLC reduction, LDLC reduction <50%, and LDLC reduction ≥50% groups, respectively. Compared with placebo, the multivariable adjusted hazard ratios for sequentially greater on-treatment per cent reductions in LDLC were 0.91 (95%CI 0.54-1.53), 0.61 (95%CI 0.44-0.83), and 0.43 (95%CI 0.30-0.60) (P < 0.00001). Similar relationships between % reduction and clinical outcomes were observed in analyses focusing on non-HDLC or apolipoprotein B.

Conclusions: As documented for low- and moderate-intensity regimens, variability in % LDLC reduction following high-intensity statin therapy is wide yet the magnitude of this % reduction directly relates to efficacy. These data support guideline approaches that incorporate % reduction targets for statin therapy as well as absolute targets, and might provide a structure for the allocation of emerging adjunctive lipid-lowering therapies such as PCSK9 inhibitors should these agents prove broadly effective for cardiovascular event reduction.

Keywords: Apolipoprotein B; Guidelines; LDLC; PCSK9; Prevention; Statin therapy.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Canada
  • Cholesterol, LDL / blood*
  • Europe
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors
  • Male
  • Proprotein Convertase 9
  • Rosuvastatin Calcium


  • Cholesterol, LDL
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors
  • Rosuvastatin Calcium
  • PCSK9 protein, human
  • Proprotein Convertase 9