Aggressive lowering of LDL level shows limited benefit for patients with previous heart attack

Patients who have had a heart attack and are treated with a high dose of a statin drug did not have significant reduction in the primary outcome of major cardiac events (coronary death, nonfatal acute heart attack, or cardiac arrest with resuscitation), but did appear to have reduced risk when certain secondary outcomes (composite end points of any coronary heart disease event) were examined, according to a study in the November 16 issue of JAMA. This study is being released early to coincide with its presentation at the American Heart Association's annual meeting.

Lowering of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) with statins has in the last decade become part of the standard treatment regimen in patients with established coronary heart disease (CHD), according to background information in the article. The most common treatment regimen for such patients in northern Europe has been simvastatin, 20 to 40 mg/d. In a recent trial among patients with acute coronary syndromes, incremental benefit was demonstrated with more intensive lowering of LDL-C to well below 100 mg/dL. Another study comparing high and low doses of atorvastatin in stable nonacute CHD found significant improvement in prognosis with respect to cardiovascular disease. In that study, however, the benefit of reduced cardiovascular death appeared to have been offset by a higher number of deaths due to noncardiovascular causes. Although this difference did not reach statistical significance and could well be due to chance, it led to a call for further safety information on the use of atorvastatin at a dose of 80 mg/d.

Terje R. Pedersen, M.D., Ph.D., of Ulleval University Hospital, Oslo, Norway and colleagues with the Incremental Decrease in End Points Through Aggressive Lipid Lowering (IDEAL) study examined whether intensive lowering of LDL-C with atorvastatin at the highest recommended dose would be more beneficial compared with the moderate, most widely used dose of simvastatin.

Contact: Terje R. Pedersen, M.D., Ph.D.
JAMA and Archives Journals

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