Prevention of cardiovascular disease in patients with familial hypercholesterolaemia: The role of PCSK9 inhibitors

Eur J Prev Cardiol. 2017 Sep;24(13):1383-1401. doi: 10.1177/2047487317717346. Epub 2017 Jun 23.


Familial hypercholesterolaemia is an autosomal dominant inherited disorder characterised by elevated low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels and consequently an increased risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD). Familial hypercholesterolaemia is relatively common, but is often underdiagnosed and undertreated. Cardiologists are likely to encounter many individuals with familial hypercholesterolaemia; however, patients presenting with premature ASCVD are rarely screened for familial hypercholesterolaemia and fasting lipid levels are infrequently documented. Given that individuals with familial hypercholesterolaemia and ASCVD are at a particularly high risk of subsequent cardiac events, this is a missed opportunity for preventive therapy. Furthermore, because there is a 50% chance that first-degree relatives of individuals with familial hypercholesterolaemia will also be affected by the disorder, the underdiagnosis of familial hypercholesterolaemia among patients with ASCVD is a barrier to cascade screening and the prevention of ASCVD in affected relatives. Targeted screening of patients with ASCVD is an effective strategy to identify new familial hypercholesterolaemia index cases. Statins are the standard treatment for individuals with familial hypercholesterolaemia; however, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol targets are not achieved in a large proportion of patients despite treatment. Proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9 (PCSK9) inhibitors have been shown to reduce low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels considerably in individuals with familial hypercholesterolaemia who are concurrently receiving the maximal tolerated statin dose. The clinical benefit of PCSK9 inhibitors must, however, also be considered in terms of their cost-effectiveness. Increased awareness of familial hypercholesterolaemia is required among healthcare professionals, particularly cardiologists and primary care physicians, in order to start early preventive measures and to reduce the mortality and morbidity associated with familial hypercholesterolaemia and ASCVD.

Keywords: Cardiovascular disease; PCSK9; familial hypercholesterolaemia; proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Diseases* / epidemiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases* / etiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases* / prevention & control
  • Cardiovascular Diseases* / psychology
  • Cholesterol, LDL / blood
  • Global Health
  • Humans
  • Hyperlipoproteinemia Type II / blood
  • Hyperlipoproteinemia Type II / complications*
  • Morbidity / trends
  • Secondary Prevention / methods*


  • Cholesterol, LDL